Behold the chickadee! They are cute, curious, and best of all friendly! After observing chickadees for several months, I began to notice some common behaviors, so I decided to delve a little further to learn more about my feathered friends.
From my observations, chickadees are social birds that socialize in bird society beyond their species. For example, I was watching our backyard feeder and a chickadee arrived with not only a host of other chickadees, but a pair of white-breasted nuthatches as well. Later on, I saw them socializing with a tufted titmouse also. One day, a chickadee was accompanied by a whole flock of titmice and in fact, more titmice than I had ever previously seen together. It turns out that chickadees are actually part of the tit family. Tits, titmice, and chickadees constitute the Paridae–a family of small passerine birds.
Seeing chickadees almost ushering over other birds made me wonder if perhaps the little chickadees were sharing and spreading the news of the bounty of the feeder. Had they, in fact, brought their friends over for brunch, so to speak? I also felt that perhaps they were trying to let the newcomers know that I was not a threat. Chickadees have allowed me to sit within a few feet of them while they feed and almost seemed to be posing for my camera.
I find it curious that they take one seed at a time. As I researched this behavior further, I discovered that they are said to take one seed, peck a hole in the shell, and then continue to peck and make the hole larger as they eat the contents of the shell. I have often seen them pecking away at what looked like the branch or their own claws but it seems that they were just chipping away at the seed they chose.
Chickadees have an iconic look that is easy to spot as they appear to be wearing little black masks on their faces. A flock of chickadees is actually called a banditry which references their black masks. Although hard to miss due to their markings, if you hear a chickadee before you see them, you may notice their distinctive “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” sound. This sound is actually made as an alarm call with the number of “dees” referencing the size or proximity of the predator, while “fee-bee” is their normal call and can be used for a variety of reasons such as attracting a mate or defending their territory.
There are quite a variety of chickadees such as the Carolina chickadee, the black-capped chickadee, the mountain chickadee, the chestnut-backed chickadee and others. The species that visits my feeder is most likely the black-capped as I live in Ohio.
In my studies, I was happy to find out that they are a non-migratory bird but less enthused about the fact that their average lifespan is only two to three years. Although I will be thrilled to continue to see them over the winter, it seems like such a short lifespan for such a charming little bird.
The chickadee is a welcome visitor for many birders and bird-watchers and I look forward to continuing to share in their friendly demeanor for years to come.
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