Birds in Delaware

The Cheerful Carolina Chickadee

A favorite at the feeder

One of my all time favorite little birds is the Carolina chickadee. Their song and personality brings me instant cheer. I think it is because they have such a positive attitude!

These spirited little birds frequently enjoy dining at my feeders. They seem especially impatient and flit around noisily, getting quite close as I rush to get the seed in the tube. It seems like they are always urging me to "hurry up!"

This small bird measures 4 ½ inches, its northernmost range is into Pennsylvania. Any farther north and you will find the black-capped chickadee, a slightly larger bird that comes south into Delaware occasionally.

Besides being cute, the chickadee is extremely beneficial because of the insects they consume. About half of their annual food is made up of insects. During the warmer months caterpillars, moths, aphids, scale and stink bugs are some choice foods. Surprisingly, bees, wasps, and spiders are also eaten. In the winter months they eat seed and suet at our feeders.

Late in the summer thay like seeds of mulberry and ragweed. (The pollen of ragweed is what gives people hay fever.) I have left some ragweed because when the plants begin to go to seed, there is quite a variety of small birds picking through the seed heads. I think they are picking insects that hide in the spent flower cluster, as well as eating seeds.

Chickadees are cavity nesters, and will utilize a natural cavity or will excavate one for themselves. The nest is made of moss then grasses and maybe some feathers. The interior is well padded with milkweed or thistle down. Some birds may also use rabbit, cattle, deer or mouse fur, whatever is available.

I have had one chickadee nest in my bluebird box. It was the most delicate and neat nest I ever saw.

A pair lays from 3 to 8 eggs. They are white, dotted with brown. Both male and female incubate the eggs for approximately 11 days. Number of days to fledging is unknown. Fortunately, the chickadee is rarely a host for cowbirds.

Chickadees often travel with other small birds like tufted titmouse and warblers. It alwarys pays to check out a flock for rarities.

It delights me every time I hear and see the confident little chickadee at my feeders. They are full of fun and happily entertain the indoor bird watcher.

This article was written by Beaty Broughton. Beaty was coordinator of the Delaware Audubon bluebird project and the Delaware Audubon nestbox project for cavity nesters.