Songbird Essentials Clinger's Only is a guranteed favorite Chickadee feeder
Guest Article by Don & Lillian Stokes
Chickadees are cheerful bird feeder regulars from coast to coast. There are about six species of Chickadees regularly seen in North American north of Mexico. Looking like Little League Baseball players, they all have dark caps, bibs and white cheeks. In general, they are dark on the back, lighter underneath, and all about the same shape and size.
Each of our Chickadees has a different range, so check which ones live in your area. Here is a summary:
- Black-capped Chickadee: Northern States and Southern Canada from coast to coast.
- Carolina Chickadee: Mostly the South – Eastern and Southern – Central States.
- Mountain Chickadee: Throughout the mountains of the West.
- Chestnut-backed Chickadee: Mostly the West Coast from Central California to Southern Alaska.
- Boreal Chickadee: Mostly in Canada from coast to coast and in Alaska.
- Mexican Chickadee: Just over the border in very limited areas of the Southwest.
In the winter most Black-capped Chickadees form into a flock of 6 – 14 birds that move about a range of 20 – 35 acres and defend it from other Chickadee flocks. A flock is comprised of pairs of Chickadees, some of which
Songbird Essentials Chickadee House
breed locally and some of which are young birds from elsewhere. Within the flock there is a stable linear dominance hierarchy, or “pecking order”. When Chickadees approach your bird feeders some birds seem to hang back and let others feed first or one bird may knock another bird off its feeding perch and take its place. These behaviors are sings of dominance and a reflection of the amazingly complex social relationships within a Chickadee flock.
Attract Chickadees with sunflower seed, their favorite, or seed mixes that contain a high percentage of sunflower. Offer the seed in tubular feeders, screen feeders or hopper feeders. Use multiple feeders to allow more Chickadee flock members to feed. I find my Chickadees love sunflower hearts and my wife likes that there is less mess in the yard, and no seeds to sprout.
Chickadees are also attracted to suet, especially in winter, when their metabolic needs are high and the high fat content of suet provides many calories.
You may also noticed that other species such as Woodpeckers, Titmice and Nuthatches may temporarily associate with the Chickadees forming a “mixed flock”. The Chickadees are the nuclear species these flocks form around. A mixed flock may benefit because there are more eyes to search for danger. By attracting Chickadees to your feeder, you can attract these other species as well. When I put out new feeders to test, the Chickadee is often the first to explore.
Chickadees live in trees, so if you do not have forest nearby, you may not have Chickadees. Create a favorable Chickadee habitat by planting trees. In addition to eating bird seed and suet, Chickadees eat tiny insects, insect larvae and wild seeds. They can acrobatically cling to branches to reach their food. I find that Chickadees readily eat live mealworms ( if they can beat the Bluebirds and Blue Jays) offered in my stake feeders.
Songbird Essentials Meal Worm feeder made from recycled milk cartons
In spring, the chickadee flock disperses. The most dominant pairs nest in the area of the winter territory, the other members nest elsewhere. Chickadees nest in trees, holds or in birdhouses. You can attract nesting Chickadees by putting up birdhouses. The entrance hole diameter can be from 1 to 1 ½ inches.
During the spring season listen for the Chickadee song. Block-capped Chickadees sing a two note whistle which sound like a “Feebee”. Other sounds they mark are “Chickadeedeedeedee”, given at disturbances or when one member is separated from the flock. The short “Tseett” note a call given between members of a flock to help keep them together. Now enjoy the Chickadee’s in your backyard.
Bobbo Bluebird shaped bird house with Chickadee sized entrance hole