The next time you hear a familiar “chick a dee dee dee,” listen closely, because a chickadee’s call can tell you a lot. Biologists have discovered that the more “dees” there were in a Black-capped Chickadee’s warning call, the more dangerous was a would-be predator. Chickadees also have a quiet “seet” call, which is believed to warn others of flying raptors. And families of birds will call back and forth, informing each other of their location. In fact, biologists have actually recognized more than 30 variations in chickadee songs and calls. In addition to their variety of calls, chickadees are charming little birds that will entertain you with their antics and tameness. When you’re visiting or filling your feeders, the brave little chickadee will wait patiently close by, offering you some very up-close views!
And since they’re so naturally curious and tame, it’s easy to feed chickadees right from your hand. Load up with sunflower seeds or sunflower hearts, or bits of chopped up walnuts. Stand close to your feeder or a tree with your palm flat and hand outstretched at arm’s length. Stay perfectly still! With patience, you will be rewarded with a brief visit that feels like a puff of air on your fingertips!
There are seven species of chickadees found in North America. The Black Capped Chickadee is found in the northern half of the U. S., the Carolina Chickadee is found in the southeast, the Mountain Chickadee found from the Rockies and west to California. Other chickadees are the Chestnut-backed, found in the northwest, the Boreal, found in Canada and Maine, and the lesser known Gray-headed of Alaska and the Mexican Chickadee, found in lower Arizona and New Mexico. No matter where you live in the country, it’s likely that you will have chickadees in your area.
Although chickadees seem to be always at our feeders, the main staple of their diets is insects. Chickadees also enjoy insect eggs, spiders and spider eggs, berries and pine cone seeds. They cache food under tree bark for winter when food is scarce, and just like squirrels, they do remember where they hid their stash!
It’s easy to attract chickadees to your yard. They are very adaptable and will feed from platform feeders, tube feeders and any feeder where their natural clinging abilities come into play, such as the Cling-a-Wing globe feeder. Offer them black oil sunflower seeds, whole sunflower hearts, or Duncraft’s nutty Chickadee Blend. Chickadees also love suet. Suet is an important food for birds year-round, but it seems to be a real favorite with chickadees. Make sure it’s always available for them and they’ll be at your feeders all day long. Feed suet cakes on a platform feeder, in a suet basket or feed suet balls in a suet ball feeder. Chickadees love the peanut and nut flavored suet cakes.
You can also attract and help chickadees by offering nest boxes. Chickadees are cavity nesters, using abandoned woodpecker holes to raise their young. But they readily accept bird houses as nesting spots. Chickadees prefer houses with floors that are about 4 x 4” square, 8 to 10” tall and placed 6 to 15’ high, either on a post or on a tree. But any house with measurements close to these will be fine for the amiable chickadee. And consider offering roosting boxes during winter. These have entry holes on the bottom to minimize drafts and perches inside. Often, many birds will huddle together inside the boxes on cold, windy nights, conserving warmth and energy.
And don’t forget water! Ice free water is important for all birds in winter when water sources are frozen. Try a heater in your bird bath or a heated bath. With food, shelter and water, your chickadees will be happy and healthy all year long and provide you with endless enjoyment!
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