Chick-a-dee-dee-dee

Is there anyone who doesn’t love chickadees? They’re so cooperative and bold that I can get nice photos of them even through a window with my little point-and-shoot.

(For those less familiar with North American birds, these specifically are Black-capped Chickadees, Poecile atricapillus. In my travels around the continent I’ve also seen Carolina Chickadees, Mountain Chickadees, and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, but I missed out on Mexican Chickadees when I was in southeastern Arizona. I’m hoping to add Boreal Chickadees to my list while I’m living here in the North Woods.)

Chickadees are one animal I can’t help anthropomorphizing (that is, ascribing human qualities to). They’re just so friendly. They regularly come flying right up to me, chirping and calling as if saying hello, and I love to stop and gossip with them – they respond very strongly to “pishing,” the sound birders make to call in songbirds. In fact, when I’m on the trail with a group of kids (or even non-birding adults!) I love to tell them that I “speak chickadee” and then demonstrate by calling in a flock of chickadees with pishing. Winter here would be far less cheerful without the boisterous chickadees enlivening the woods – they’re one of just a handful of songbird species that doesn’t migrate south.

Some days I can’t help but wonder if the chickadees that frequent the feeders where I work might even recognize me as an individual. After all, I walk past their feeders every day in a distinctive bright pink coat, usually stopping to “chat” with them, and birds have excellent color vision. It’s a nice thought. Crows have been demonstrated to be able to recognize individual people, so why not chickadees?

For every “good” chickadee photo I managed to take, there was a photo showing only blurs of motion as chickadees arrived and departed. Truth be told I like these “bad” photos just as well. (Look carefully – there are two birds in the first photo, one in the second.)

Do you have chickadees where you live? Which species?

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10 thoughts on “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee”

  1. Love them here in NC. I guess that pretty much gives away which ones fly to my feeders. I’ve heard that if a person can stand near a feeder for 15-20 minutes each day for a couple weeks that the Chickadees will become accustomed & land on your arms and you can hand feed them. I’m still not sure if I buy into that but I would like to hear what others have experienced & know. Suppose to be around 70 here in NC foothills on Friday. Love the south!

    1. Those would have been Carolinas. Carolinas and Black-caps look almost identical and are the two most widespread species, with Black-caps in the northern half of North America and Carolinas in the southern. I agree – charming!

  2. this reminds me…must get newer field guide. Mine still says Parus atricapillus. Damn you science! I can’t keep learning new names! My brain is full of old stuff and I can’t even pronounce them correctly!!!
    and yes, i get between two and five at my feeder each day.

    1. Yeah, I looked it up and they used to be part of Parus, which also includes the Old World tits (I can hear you snickering, Christopher, stop it), but apparently now most people consider chickadees to be their own genus. Don’t sweat it, though; the distinction between genus and subgenus is totally arbitrary if you ask me.

      1. I wasn’t snickering…much. while i have no idea why Paridae received that moniker, I had simply assumed it was because most early birders were men. Lonely, depraved men alone in the woods or ocean. Tits and boobies. really?! For hearty laughter and outright guffaws, Penduline, fire-capped, and Great tits get me every time.

  3. Chickadees are one of my all-time favorite birds. Very vocal, incredibly active, but can get fairly tame if you feed them. Judging from certain calls they make, there’s mostly Carolina Chickadees here in central Ohio, though I seem to have heard the occasional hybrid.

    1. When I lived in Delaware, Ohio it was mostly Carolinas there (I went to Ohio Wesleyan University). The “dividing line” between Carolinas and Black-caps goes right through north central Ohio, though – just an hour further north in Mansfield, where I grew up, it seemed to be mostly Black-caps.

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