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The Observer Paper 12/22/14

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People-friendly Mountain Chickadees like to hang around upside down

Mountain Chickaee. Photo E.H. Van Blaricom
Mountain Chickaee. Photo E.H. Van Blaricom
JOSEPH — My bird of the month is the friendly little chickadee.

There are three subspecies of chickadees that are common in Oregon. The most numerous is the black-capped and the least common is the chestnut-backed chickadee. But in our backyard, the mountain chickadee outnumbers the black-capped about five to one. That is why I submitted this photo of a mountain chickadee at our sunflower seed feeder.

It can be said that all of these tiny birds have literally named themselves. All you have to do is listen to their frequent calls which sound out “CHICKADEEDEE.”

Chickadees are not only people-friendly, but they are one of the most gregarious species that I know of. By this, I mean they don’t just stay within their own flock, but in winter, they travel together with nuthatches, brown creepers and kinglets. I have witnessed these multiple-species societies many times in my life as a birdwatcher.

Most of these species nest in the northern states and Canada and they prefer an evergreen forest where in winter they move through the treetops for the scanty larva and insect eggs that most other birds have overlooked. Apparently they are not concerned with competition, or else their harmony is due to each species using different tactics for finding these elusive morsels.

Chickadees are cavity nesters and will accept manmade birdhouses if they have a small entrance hole. During nesting season, they are very quiet and seem to disappear, but when winter comes, if people put out suet, peanut butter or sunflower seeds, they will be with you all winter long.

With the cold, snowy winter we have been having, mountain chickadees are the most frequent visitors to our sunflower feed tube, but unlike the finches, they have to grab a single seed and fly to the nearest tree so they can hold it down with one claw and peck it open to get the kernel.

One of the antics of chickadees is like the nuthatch family, in that they spend quite a bit of time hanging upside down while searching for food.

We have a few chickadees on our property all summer long, but we get many more in winter after they migrate down from the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska.

They are a delightful member of the many visitors to our feeders.

E.H. Van Blaricom writes the Birds of a Feather column monthly for The Observer.


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