Perky Little Bird of the Eastern United States
Carolina Chickadees are great little cavity nesting birds that nest very early in spring. They are permanent residents in the Eastern United States and coexist well with humans since they love sunflower seeds and suet. Chickadees are very under rated and everyone should take more notice of these bold and intelligent little birds. In these small birds dwells the heart of a lion! This article celebrates the Carolina Chickadee.
Carolina Chickadee, Louisiana's Only Chickadee
One of our favorite birds is the Carolina Chickadee. To be so tiny, this bird has the heart of a lion. They are inquisitive and intelligent and seem to be comfortable with man. They are the first ones to discover and use a new feeder or nest box and will not hesitate to let you know when something bothers them.
What species of Chickadee is common where you live?
Identifying Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Chickadees are from 10-12 cm (4-5 in) with a wingspan of 15-20 cm (6-8 in). They weigh from 8-12 g (0.28-0.42 ounces). It has a small, short-billed bird with a black cap, black bib and white cheeks. Its back is solid gray, underparts are whitish, wings and tail are dark grayish and flanks are gray or brownish. The upper wing feathers have no or only a little white edging. The tail is rather long and the bill is black. The legs and feet are gray.
Reference: All About Birds
Chickadee in Bird Bath
According to Martin, Zim and Nelson in American Wildlife & Plants - A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits, Carolina Chickadees have diets similar to Blackcapped Chickadees. During winter, animal foods include large numbers of the eggs of moths, plant lice, katydids and spiders. In warmer months the animal diet consists of moths, caterpillars, spiders, beetles (particularly weevils), flies, wasps, true bugs, plant lice, scale insects, leafhoppers and treehoppers. In the Southeast plant food includes: seeds from Pines, Poison-ivy, Bayberry, Ragweed, Red Maple and Elm. They also enjoy sunflower seeds and suet.
So this bird is another of the many wild "helpers" who organically rid our gardens of harmful insects. The video below shows how they grab a sunflower or safflower seed and fly up to a perch to open it.
Chickadee in American Beech Tree
In our area, Carolina Chickadees frequently use the nest boxes on our Bluebird Trail. These perky little birds are permanent residents. Their chikadeedeedeedee call is made frequently as they visit the sunflower seed feeder.
Listen to the Call of the Carolina Chickadee.
Chickadees excavate cavities in rotten trees, but will readily take advantage of a nest box. They are the first to nest in the spring and are usually finished by the time most of the other birds are ready to nest. Chickadees usually nest once a year, but will attempt a second nesting if the first one failed.
Their nests are made mostly of green moss with some hair and fur to form a cup. We put out the clippings from our Cocker Spaniel's haircuts in a wire suet basket and the Chickadees love them.
Inside the Nest Box
Shortly after the nest is completed, the female lays from 3-8 speckled eggs and incubates them for 11 to 14 days, beginning the day the next-to-last egg is laid. The nestlings fledge when they are 13 to 17 days old.
Carolina Chickadees often nest in bluebird houses. We usually build our own, but after Hurricane Katrina so many were damaged that we purchased some of these. They are the correct dimensions and can be opened to monitor the nest.
Young Peeking Out
Carolina Chickadee Caring For YoungClick thumbnail to view full-size
Baby Chickadees Video Cam
I'll never forget the day that I was working in the yard and a heard the Chickadees fussing and calling from a forested area nearby. One of them flew over towards me and then flew back to where the others were giving distress calls. As I made my way through the brush, the Chickadee kept returning to me until it lead me to an oak tree with a Chickadee size hole in it. I could barely see the hole, because there was a rat snake halfway in and the Chickadees were diving at it.
Since the hole was too high for me to reach, I ran to get a step stool and called for my tall husband to come help. He's the snake expert and he verified that it was a rat snake and was able to remove it from the Chickadee's nesting cavity. There were no lumps in the snake, so we think we intervened in time. Rat snakes are very beneficial animals because they rid the environment of vermin, so we released the snake in the woods, far away from our yard.
Texas Rat Snake in Chickadee Nest Cavity
The calls in the video below were the same ones that got my attention and lead me to the nest in the tree with the rat snake.
Chickadee in Silver Bell
Links to Other Southern U.S. Birds
- Red-bellied Woodpecker Family
Red-bellied woodpeckers are permanent residents in South Louisiana. These birds often dig out nesting cavities in dead pine trees. Here you'll find photos of and information about woodpeckers.
- The Wings of Winter
The birds of winter in Louisiana add color and movement to the dreary garden. Photographs of Cardinals, Chickadees, Bluebirds and Woodpeckers plus gift suggestions for birders can be found here.
© 2008 Yvonne L B