The chickadee is a part of the Titmouse family. This small and perky bird is a familiar and welcome visitor to our backyard feeders and gardens in winter. There are five species in North America, the black capped chickadee which makes its home to the north, the Chestnut backed chickadee found in the Pacific Northwest, the Carolina chickadee which is found in the south east, the mountain chickadee found in the west, and the Mexican chickadee found in the mountains of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and the west and central mountainous areas of Mexico.
Chickadees are usually seen in pairs or small groups. When nesting is over and the young are on the wing, chickadees will form small flocks of 8 or a dozen birds which will roost and forage together until spring. Finding food in the winter is often tough and hunting in groups increases their chances for success. This group concept also helps as a predator defense system. More eyes can look for and warn the group of approaching danger.
Chickadees dine primarily on insects, seeds and berries. These active and agile little birds can be seen hanging upside down from twigs or at your feeder.
Attracting Chickadees to Your Backyard!
The chickadee is largely an insect eater. The constantly active chickadee will hop around and cling to twigs, branches, and foliage gleaning huge quantities of insect eggs and larvae. Chickadees also enjoy a variety of seeds and berries.
Pine seeds are an important natural vegetable food along with the seeds and nuts of hemlock, birch, pine, walnut, ragweed and sunflower. Chickadees love black oil sunflower seed presented at your bird feeder. They will typically take one seed from the feeder, fly away and perch nearby to eat it. Chickadees will visit your feeder one at a time, while other chickadees wait nearby for their turn. They also enjoy gray striped sunflower seeds, peanut kernels, hulled sunflower seeds, peanut butter mixes and suet.
Chickadees enjoy the berries of poison ivy, blueberry, bayberry, and serviceberry. Picture of chickadee on suet
- Chickadees are in constant motion and will appreciate lots of high energy food. Offer plenty of suet!
- Plant hemlock in your backyard or plant a pine, birch, aspen or elm tree. Create dense plantings of shrubs and young sapling thickets, backed by mature deciduous and coniferous trees.
- Plant berry producing bushes such as blueberry, elderberry and bayberries.
- The Chickadee will be a frequent visitor to your feeders in the winter. Fill your tubular perching feeders or hopper feeders with black oil sunflower seed or peanut kernels.
- Chickadees are one of the easiest birds to hand tame. Offer peanut or walnut kernels in your outstretched palm and watch them up close!
- Place out a platform feeder and fill it with peanut kernels and fresh or dried blueberries.
- Offer a suet feeder placed near the trunk of a tree.
- Smear peanut butter onto tree trunks and branches.
- Offer a source of water for drinking and bathing.
- Chickadees are cavity nesting birds, sometimes nesting in abandoned woodpecker holes and the natural cavities of trees. Most often they dig their own nesting holes out of partially rotted tree trunks or stumps. Put out a couple of chickadee specific bird houses to encourage them to nest in your backyard. (See specific nest box dimensions for the chickadee.) Place small wood chips inside to persuade them to use it. They won’t use the wood chips for nesting, but this lining will convince them that the nesting box is fresh and acceptable. Mount the box on the trunk of a pine, birch, aspen or elm tree.