Chickadees are one of the easiest birds to attract to your garden and to hand feed. Entice them to come close by holding out your outstretched hand with some chopped up peanuts or walnuts in your palm. Or attract them to your bird feeders with peanut kernels, black oil or gray striped sunflower seeds, or suet. They aren’t picky they will come to feeders that hang and swing in the wind, and don’t mind coming to window feeders. Chickadees will commonly visit feeders one at a time. Each bird taking one seed to carry off to eat, while the other Chickadees wait their turn nearby. In the winter Chickadees eat whatever seeds they can find, berries, insects, and spiders. These birds hide their food items to eat later, hiding each item in different locations. Chickadees can remember hundreds of hiding places. Each autumn Chickadees brain neurons die that contain old information about their social flock, food caches and environment. This creates room in their tiny brain for the new neurons that will replace the old and allows them to adapt to their changing environment.
Chickadees are a North American song bird. They are also the state bird in the United States for Massachusetts and Maine. In Canada, it is the provincial bird for New Brunswick. Chickadees are typically non-migratory. But do occasionally move farther south in autumn and winter. Chickadees are typically seen in small groups from eight to a dozen. While nesting they split up into pairs. After the nesting process is over and the young have moved out of the nest, they will hunt and roost together till spring. By foraging in groups makes the hunting for food process easier and more likely successful, especially in the winter when food is scarcer. Also, a group makes for a better defense system, with more birds on the lookout for predators. Woodpeckers, creepers, vireos, nuthatches, kinglets and titmice will forge along with the Chickadees because Chickadees will call out whenever they find a good food source, or sense a predator nearby. These other birds also respond to the Chickadee alarm calls. Chickadee calls are complex and language-like, communicating information on identity and recognition of other flocks. As well as predator alarms and contact calls. The more dee notes in a Chickadee-dee-dee call, the higher the threat level. There is a definite rigid social hierarchy within flocks. Where males usually rank over females, and older Chickadees will have a higher social standing over younger birds. There are birds called winter floaters. These birds don’t belong to any one flock, but will spend time with various flocks. These birds will have a different rank in each group they spend time in.
Both male and female Chickadees look alike, but males are slightly bigger and longer than the females. Chickadees are tiny; they are smaller than a sparrow. They Range in length from 4.7 – 5.9 inches (12-15cm). With a wingspan of 6.3 – 8.3 inches (16-21cm). And weigh approximately 0.3 – 0.5 ounces. (9-14g). The Chickadee’s flight speed is about 12.5 mph (20 km/h), flying in a slightly wave like fashion with rapid wing beats. The oldest recorded Chickadee lived to be 12 years and 5 month old. But the average life span is closer to 2 years, due to their many predators and dramatic weather changes.
There are six species of Chickadees commonly seen in the United States and Canada. They all have dark caps and bibs, with white cheeks. Typically they all have dark backs with light under parts and they are all similar in shape and size. The physical differences between some species are very subtle, and it takes their song to distinguish them. Chestnut-backed Chickadees are mostly seen on the West coast from central California to the southern parts of Alaska, and have a reddish-brown back. The Carolina Chickadees are found in the southeast and south central states. Mountain Chickadees live throughout the mountains in the western states and is the only Chickadee with a thin white line over the eye. Black-capped Chickadees live from coast to coast in the northern states and southern Canada. Mexican Chickadees found in southeastern Arizona, parts of southwestern New Mexico and the central mountainous parts of Mexico, and has a long bib and gray flanks. And the Boreal Chickadees live from coast to coast in Canada and in parts of Alaska, and have a brown cap.
Chickadees will often use nesting boxes. Try filling the bottom of the nesting box with sawdust or wood shavings. They wouldn’t use the shavings for nesting, but the sawdust lining will convince them that the nesting box is fresh and available. Chickadees also prefer an unobstructed path to the entrance hole. Remove any branches or leaves that may be in the way. Try putting the nesting box away from other trees and branches; this will help keep squirrels and mice from getting into the box and eating the eggs and nestlings. Females select the nesting site, usually in a hollowed out cavity, typically in rotten branches dead snags in alder or birch trees. Both the male and the female will hollow out the cavity, usually about 8 inches deep. Then the female will build a cup shaped nest using moss and other sturdy material for the shell, and lining it with softer material such as animal hair.
Chickadees nearly always sleep individually in their own roosting cavities, even when temperatures are far below zero. Like hummingbirds on cold nights Chickadees go into a torpor state that lowers their body temperature, which enables them to conserve energy.
Typically Chickadees breed only once a year. Sometimes if the first brood is lost then they will breed a second time. They first breed at one year of age. Chickadees produce 6-8 eggs in a clutch. Their eggs are white with small reddish brown dots. The eggs are tiny, averaging 0.6 in long x 0.5 in. wide. The female is the only one who sits on the eggs and the incubation period is 11-14 days. During that time the male feeds the female. When the hatchlings are born their eyes are closed, and are naked accept for a few small patches of gray downy feathers on the head and back. The nestlings are then fed by both the male and the female birds. After hatching the young stay in the nest 12-16 days, but will continue to be fed by the parents for several weeks, until they are able to support themselves on their own.
Bird watching is a delight. They are fun to watch, and by placing a birdbath and a bird feeder in your yard will not only be entertainment for you, but it is helpful for the birds also. Especially in the winter months when food and water are harder to find. Chickadees are friendly and easy to attract with bird feeders and nesting boxes.
Source: Cassidy Frost