This familiar visitor to our backyard feeders brings joy and entertainment to millions of birders throughout the country. Their merriment and abundant numbers have a propensity for sunflower-filled feeding stations everywhere.
Chickadees thrive on insects, with a dependency on seeds and berries during the coldest months. At feeders, their favorite food sources include sunflower seeds, nutmeats, peanut butter and suet.
When it comes to storing food supplies, chickadees are evenly matched with chipmunks. This bird species gathers and hides hundreds of food items during the fall and winter. Because they are such good food foragers, black-capped chickadees are often joined in the winter by mixed flocks of nuthatches, titmice, and downy woodpeckers. This mixed crowd also provides protection from predators.
Chickadees are members of the “eat n’ run” crowd. Witness a chickadee as it approaches an empty feeding perch and grabs a single seed. With the morsel in its beak, this feathered friend takes off for a favorite branch to secure it with its feet. Their technique is to peck away the shell to open the husk and get to the meat inside. They can spend quite a while relishing one single seed before returning to the same feeder for another prize.
Chickadees are natural born acrobats and can swing all the way around a perch or hang upside down to capture a morsel from any hanging, pole mounted or hopper feeders.
During the winter months, chickadees will frequently puff out their plumage, looking so much like a fat ball of feathers. This heat-conserving technique traps air around the thick down feathers, increases insulation and prevents the loss of body heat.
Chickadees do not huddle with other birds of the same species for evening warmth. Instead, these small marvels lower their body temperature and enter a state of torpor. This depresses bodily functions, including breathing and metabolism. At dawn, the chickadees will start to shiver and fly off for breakfast from a remembered food source to start another day.
The black-capped chickadee is the most widespread of all the chickadee species. It inhabits Alaska and the entire northern half of North America. You are not alone in your affection for this wild bird. For many people, it is the first bird to locate a new bird feeder.
Enjoy your birds!
Wild Bird Depot is located on Rt 11 in Gilford, NH. Steve White is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show “Bird Calls” with Lakes Region Newsday @ 8:30AM. Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. Be sure to check out our blog “Bird Droppings” via our website www.wildbirddepot.com. Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.