(Click on images to enlarge them.)
February is “National Bird Feeding Month” (though my birds inform me that EVERY month is bird feeding month), so in honor of all birds who visit our feeders, this month’s Bird of the Month is the Carolina Chickadee…a daily visitor to my buffet.
Chickadees may be small in stature, but they make up for their diminutive size with a bold contrast of colors, a big multi-noted song, and a boldly inquisitive nature.
On the east coast of the United States, the two types of Chickadees–Black-capped and Carolina–are quite hard to distinguish by sight or sound, though there are subtle differences. For instance, the Carolina Chickadee is ever so slightly smaller and with duller colors than the Black-capped. But these differences are hard to tell.
The songs of the two chickadee species are slightly different, so if you have a good ear for bird calls, you may be able to tell them apart. A bird friend of mine, Amanda, made me laugh when she said that the Carolina Chickadee is the only southerner who’s faster than the northerner. She’s right!
The Audubon website below has links that give you a clue as to the variety found in the Carolina Chickadee’s songs and calls (scroll to the bottom right of the page). Have you heard any of these voices?
The most reliable way to tell the difference is by location. The Black-capped Chickadee is the northern cousin; the Carolina Chickadee lives further south. However, there’s a thin band in the middle in which both species reside. Click on the link below to see range maps for the Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees, as well as for the three other chickadee species of North America:
I try not to have favorites among my feeder birds, but I must say that my Carolina Chickadees rank right up in the top group. Rather than fly off when I go outside, they are the first to fly in! “Hey, food lady, here we are, ready and waiting!” Although I’ve seen them at a variety of feeders, they seem to prefer the pure safflower seeds (white and golden) that are offered in tube feeders.
They also regularly munch on black– oil sunflower seed. I’ve seen them at the peanut butter feeders, in the tray feeder that has a fruit-nut-seed mix, and trying out anything else that may appear. While some species of birds sit at the feeders eating multiple seeds at a time, the Carolina Chickadees like to grab and go. I usually have 3 or 4 hanging out in my big tree, tag teaming the feeders…one flies in, grabs a seed, flies back to the tree to crack it open, while another swoops down for a bite. It is quite a delight to watch…and they let me sit on the deck close by and enjoy the feeding frenzy!
Don’t forget that chickadees, and all birds, need a water source, too. They use bird baths and dishes to drink and to bathe. My little Carolina Chickadees really seem to like this make-shift table-top water dish over some of the bigger bird baths I offer. It is small enough for the birds to perch and drink easily.
To learn more about the Carolina Chickadee, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s page dedicated to this wonderful little songbird:
All photographs on this website are copyright © Sunny Blue Productions, LLC.