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Chickadee a Cheery Bird

Updated on August 9, 2015


Birds and nature in Natural colours {1913-1914}
Birds and nature in Natural colours {1913-1914}


In this series ,looking at North American birds , I include historical accounts from American ornithologists and naturalist. I find their prespective on these beautiful creatures very interesting, along with the opportunity to see if things have changed for that species since those times. Historical accounts as with the previous articles are attributed to Mrs. Mabel Osgood Wright from her book 'Bird-craft' and others. Mrs wright was married to an English man, James Wright. She was also the President of the State of Connecticut Audubon Society in 1889. { see my hub John James Audubon an early American icon}.

The black and white plates are by Louis Agassiz Fuertes {1847-1927}.

Coal tit

Familar wild birds {1883}
Familar wild birds {1883}

Introducing the chickadee

Chickadees belong to the Order of Birds known as Passeriformes {perching birds} and constitute the Paridae family. Parus atricapillus {now Poecile atricapillus, a name recognized by the American Ornithologist Union for some time now}

DESCRIPTION of the chickadee and accompanying notes by Mrs. Wright {1897}---

The chickadee or black capped titmouse Parus atricapillus is a small bird 5.50 inches long.

The male and female have no crest. Above gray with a brownish tinge; crown and nape, and chin and throat black; sides of head white. Below white shading to light gray with white edgings. Bill and feet lead black.

Season a resident. Range-- Eastern North America, north of the Potomac and Ohio valley.

This hardy little fellow, always cheery and lovable is a familiar figure in our light woods and garden trees in autumn and winter seeking by his good nature and energy, to console us, in a measure, for the loss of the tree haunting summer warblers.

The chickadee adapts himself to all surroundings and to all circumstances, suiting his appetite to what he can find, when insects fail, taking kindly to seeds, berries, cone kernals and crumbs. In the winter of 1891-92 when the cold was severe, the snow deep, and the tree trunks often covered with ice, the chickadees repaired in flocks daily to the kennel of my old dog colin and fed from his dish. Hopping over his back and calling 'Chickadee,dee,dee' in his face-proceedings that he never least resented, but seemed rather to enjoy.

Taking a hint from this I made a compound of finely minced meat, waste canary seed, buckwheat and cracked oats, which was scattered in a sheltered spot from which the snow had been swept. this bird hash was rapidly consumed, and I was convinced during that season that it was a food suited to their needs of all winter birds, both seed and insect eaters, finding in it what they required."

The chickadee is very similar in appearance and in its habits as the Coal tit that is resident here in the UK, another common member of the Paridae. The coal tit is slightly smaller than the chickadee being four to four and a half inches long.{Pictured above right}

The chickadee and yellow warbler

Louis Agassiz Fuertes  {Bird-craft} !897}
Louis Agassiz Fuertes {Bird-craft} !897}

Habits and lifestyle of the chickadee

" Piped a tiny voice near by,

Gay and polite-a cheerful cry-

Chick-chickadeedee! saway note,

Out of sound heart and merry throat.

As if it said 'good day good sir!

Fine afternoon, old passenger!

happy to meet you in these places,

Where January brings new faces"

{ R.W. Emerson.}

Very few birds with the exception of the wren, is more cheerful and chirpy than the little chickadee and its cheerfulness has an influence on our spirits also. They are naturally inquisitive and will respond to high whistles, just to see who you are . When use to your presence they can become very tame. These little black capped members of the feathered fraternity hunt for their living in loose scattered flocks throughout the autumn and winter.

As the temperatures drop lower this little feathered sprite seems to lift his spirits even higher. they are all avian acrobats and will hang upside down from the the most precarious of branches carefully searching the bark for a tasty morsel. despite his constant hunting they tend to sing as they search or in between bites, as their search continues.. When the spring arrives these feathered nomads seek the seclusion of woods or woodland swamps where insects are in abundance.

" Where it not for me,

Said a chickadee,

Not a single flower on earth would be,

For under ground they soundly sleep,

And never venture an upward peep,

Till they hear from me,

Chickadee-dee-dee !

" I tell jack frost when 'tis time to go,

And carry away the ice and snow;

Then I hint to the jolly old sun,

'A little spring work,sir, should be done.

And he smiles around,

on the frozen ground,

And I keep my cheery cheery sound,

Till echo declares in glee, in glee;

'Tis he! 'tis he !

The chickadee-dee!

" And I awaken the birds of spring,

'Ho, Ho ! 'tis time to be on the wing'

They trill and twitter and soar aloft,

And Isend the winds to whisper soft,

Down by the little flower beds,

Saying ' come show your pretty heads !

For the spring is coming, you see, you see!'

For so sings he,

The chickadee-dee"

Chickadee perched

Public domain
Public domain | Source

Nest eggs and young of the chickadee

This is another species that constructs its nesting abode during the month of May, and two broods per season are frequently raised. While it seems to prefer the woodland edge as it best means of procuring food and shelter it by no means confines itself to these localities. They sometimes breed in open and exposed places. Examples of their chosen nesting places are an hollow post of a fence in the midst of open cultivated fields, a decayed stump, a hollow log in a frequented farm yard and even the side of an inhabited dwelling, have all been selected by the species as a place to breed their young.

Sparcley timbered borders of streams and ravines about creeks and springs are also frequented for nesting sites, usually excavating a cavity in a dead limb, trunk, stump, or even a prostrate log. Some individuals either incompetent or hurried build their nest in a deserted woodpecker hole or a natural cavity.

As a general rule the nest is over four feet from the ground nut never over twenty. Where an excavation is made the birds commonly select a piece of dead timber of considerable size, and, having made a round hole for the doorway, this projected into the wood for an inch or more , and then turning downwards it enlarges into a cavity of about three inches at its widest part and it may be five to six inches deep. The excavation is often well and accurately formed as that made by any woodpecker.

differing from most birds that excavate a tree hole, the chickadee carries an abundance of soft material into the cavity and forms a soft felt-like nest in which the bird lays her eggs and rears her young. Fine vegetable fibres, vegetable down, wool, moss and fine, short hairs compose the bulk of the nest. Soft fur and downy feathers are also sometimes found in the lining. When a natural cavity is chosen the site is often to large , thus a great deal more material is demanded. The entrance hole allowing access to the cavity is about an inch in circumference which helps to keep the larger birds of prey and other predators out.

The eggs number five to eight, with six being the typical number produced,the ground colour of the shell is white.The markings consist of blotches , spots and/ or speckles. They are of a light reddish-brown, at times almost pure sienna. The young as soon as they have fledged have all the external markings of the adult birds. The head is equally black and they chatter and flit about with all the agility of the parents. From this time the whole family continue to associate together through the autumn and winter.

Nest and eggs of the chickadee

Illustrations of the nest and eggs of the birds of Ohio {1886} The illustration represents a nest and three eggs taken in Northern Ohio in 1865
Illustrations of the nest and eggs of the birds of Ohio {1886} The illustration represents a nest and three eggs taken in Northern Ohio in 1865

A roaming we will go

During the autumn and winter families of these nomadic birds may be encountered, chattering and roaming through the woods, busily engaged in their quest for food. Along with nuthatches and creepers they form an industrious and noisy group, whose habits and manners and food bring them together in a common pursuit.

Their diet varies from season to season, for besides insects and their eggs,of which they are particularly fond, in September they leave the woods and assemble landing in orchards and gardens. They likewise pick up crumbs near houses and search the weather boards and even windowsills in search of insects and their larvae. They are, at this time, particularly fond of spiders and eggs of the destructive moths, especially those of the canker worn, which they greedily devour in all stages of their existence.

In winter when their hunger is satisfied they will descend on the snow and quench their first by swallowing small bits. In this manner their minimal needs are met. Their existence through these cold winter months is aided by their light and very downy feathers.




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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      The Examiner -1, The chickadee seems popular with everyone. Glad you enjoyed the poem. Thank you for taking the time to leave your welcomed comments. Best wishes to you.

      DDE, You are very welcome , glad you enjoyed it. Best wishes to you.

      Vacation Trip, thank you for your kind comments , they are appreciated.Best wishes to you.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 

      5 years ago

      I loved that poem about the chickadee being the first bird in spring, it made me smile. I think that I relied on the chickadee more than the groundhog. LOL When I first started birdwatching I saw the chickadee (and titmouse, its family mate) they were both so acrobatic/energetic and vociferous that I made them my two favorite birds!

    • Vacation Trip profile image


      5 years ago from India

      Thanks D.A.L. for sharing such an interesting hub. We don`t get to see Chickadee here. Well written hub.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The beautiful chickadee you always manage to share such helpful information. The photos and the information are all so well researched, thanks for sharing this hub

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      moonlake, thank you for visiting . They seem to be a popular little bird that many people are fond of. Best wishes to you.

      aviannovice, Deb thank you for visiting. These little birds are as you say very active and always on the move, making photographing them very difficult. Over here I had the same problem trying to photograph a little bird called the Chiffchaff. These are leaf warblers which are more often heard than seen. I remember sitting in a woodland for many hours deleting many missed shots, before I finally got one image. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      When I lived in Maine in the country, they were very plentiful, with Red-breasted Nuthatches and the American Goldfinch. They would come in droves and loved black oil sunflower seeds. In the winter, I went through a 50-pound bag in three weeks. Here in OK, I see the Carolina Chickadee, which is the same thing, really. They aren't as friendly around the lake and are very hard to capture in a photograph.

    • moonlake profile image


      5 years ago from America

      I love chickadees we get them here year round. Their always on our feeder. Enjoyed your hub. Voted up.


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