Thursday, May 10, 2012
Backyard Birds: The Carolina Chickadee
The second bird in our Backyard Bird Feature is the Carolina Chickadee, Poecile carolinensis.
There's nothing much cuter than a baby Chickadee
In the St. Louis area we are on the border where Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees occur and in this area they look similar and will even do each other’s calls. World Bird Sanctuary’s Bird Banding team has found that 99% of the chickadees on our property are Carolina Chickadees, so this is the species I will focus on.
Carolina Chickadees are about 4.8 inches tall. They have a black cap and bib with white cheeks. Their call is a fast high-pitched chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Carolina Chickadees are found in the South Eastern US as far west as Kansas and Texas.
Here you can see the soft mosses and down which line a Chickadee's nest
Carolina Chickadees make their nests inside tree cavities or nest boxes. They line their nests with moss, grass, plant down (the fuzzy down that allows seeds dispersed through the air by certain plants to float on air currents—such as dandelion and thistle), feathers and hair, and lay 5-8 eggs that are white with reddish-brown spots.
A nest full of Carolina Chickadees waiting to be banded and then returned to the nest
Chickadees are in the family Paridae, which includes Chickadees and Titmice. Worldwide there are 53 species in 8-12 genera. Most are in the Northern Hemisphere, except for a few that occur in southern Africa and Indonesia. In North America there are 11 species in 2 genera. All are considered omnivorous, eating mainly insects and seeds.
Many species of the chickadee family pair for life. Chickadees are flock birds--especially during the winter--and will often travel with other species of birds. Chickadees are also well known for their mobbing tendencies. This is where smaller birds try to drive predatory birds out of their territory. Chickadees will especially mob the smaller owl species, like Eastern Screech Owls.
Carolina chickadees have adapted well to humans, and frequently live in towns and cities. They are common at feeders. They prefer sunflower seeds and peanuts. They will even enjoy a little suet during the winter months. They will go to the ground for food, as well as frequenting hopper feeders, tube feeders, etc.
If you wish to enjoy chickadees even more, they will frequently use nest boxes. If you wish to build a nest box, you can go to our web site and print nest box plans—or visit our Gift Shop in the Nature Center and purchase a nest box.
Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist