My Little Carolina Chickadee

by Bronwyn Clear, Certified Texas Master Naturalist

No doubt about it. Chickadees are adorable, starting with their name and ending with their fidgety personalities. These tiny black-white-grey birds are always flitting, flying and hopping, and can hardly stay still.

Common here in the East Texas Pineywoods, our Carolina Chickadees are only 5” long and less than half an ounce in weight! It is a delight to find them here all year long, singing their 2-note or 4-note songs of “fee-BEE” or “fee-BEE-fee-BAY”. They are not migratory birds, but will flock up in winter with titmice and finches to forage over a wider area for food. It is believed that together the different species help alert each other as to the best food locations.

Around April mated pairs will work to clean out tree cavities for their nests, or take over a woodpecker’s old tree holes, or even nest in fence post holes! They are small enough to use a bluebird nest box, and will take possession if they get to one before a bluebird pair.

Carolina Chickadees’ nests are made of green moss with a nest cup that is lined with soft fur, down or comfy plant material. The female usually lays 3 to 8 tiny red-brown speckled eggs. The eggs take 2 weeks to incubate and hatch, and after another 2-1/2 weeks the chicks will leave the nest. Chickadees usually have only one brood per year, but occasionally two.

It may be surprising to learn that insects make up most of their food source even though they are commonly seen at bird feeders. Chickadees will come to feeders during colder months if you offer safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, white millet or cracked corn. And they love berries in fall and winter. Poison ivy berries are no problem at all for Chickadees to digest, which is true for most birds that eat berries. And that brings us to the one tiny negative for our precious little darlings. Chickadees spread poison ivy all over our gardens and yards by way of the seeds in their droppings!

Learn more about the incredible nature in our area by joining a chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist organization. To find a chapter close to you, or to read about the state program, go online to www.txmn.org. Volunteer and get involved!

C:\Users\Bronwyn\Desktop\CarolinaChickadees\001.JPG                     On this trip to the feeder Safflower seed was the preferred snack.

C:\Users\Bronwyn\Desktop\CarolinaChickadees\006.JPGGreen moss is first laid in for the nest. Then the female adds a soft nest cup of feathers or fur from other birds and animals. Now it’s a lovely place to lay her red-brown speckled eggs.C:\Users\Bronwyn\Desktop\CarolinaChickadees\IMG_0396.JPGThis Carolina Chickadee nested in a bluebird box and remodeled an old bluebird pine needle nest! All’s fair in love and nesting! Five Chickadee nestlings will be flying in about a week.