My Little Chickadee

I can’t lay claim to any true relationship with this young Carolina Chickadee, Poecile carolinensis.  Though it isn’t my little chickadee, I confess an affection toward the little bird as it satisfied my selfish desire to observe as it perched, relatively still, and fed for a period of time, long enough for this watcher to watch. 

The neophyte chickadee sat at the feeder, nibbling at the small pieces of peanut available.  No adult chickadee would consent to spend that much time at a feeder;  adult chickadees dash and perch, grab and go.   A mature–and wary–Carolina Chickadee would dart to the feeder, and lickety-split, grab a peanut, or part of a peanut, and sprint out of clear sight to a safe place to eat.  The young chickadee’s inexperience at peanut picking allowed me to watch for several minutes, appreciating its birdie beauty, even though I also recognize that it must be more careful:  move fast or become someone’s meal. 

I observed, then realized that maybe, just maybe, I could capture some of this darling since it was spending an un-chickadee-like amount of time at the feeder.

Successful photos of a Carolina Chickadee?  That’s a rare treat for me!

To its credit, when a parent Blue Jay muscled its way onto the feeder, the young bird flit to the tree, then to the cord from which the feeder hangs, then safely to an evergreen shrub.  Once the jay was done, the chickadee settled in for more of the peanut treats. 

Chickadees’ tiny beaks are better suited for gleaning spiders and other small insects from trees and shrubs, the birds protected by cover of foliage.  Their beaks are not as well designed to quickly dismantle a hard-coated seed or good-sized peanut, especially while acting as a sitting duck at a feeder.  A wise and experienced chickadee will snatch, fly, and eat under cover–and live to raise a clutch of his or her own.

A week or so ago, I watched as an adult Carolina Chickadee zoomed in from a neighbor’s property, grabbed a nosh–sometimes a peanut, sometimes a black-oiled sunflower.  It then zoomed back in the same direction, followed immediately by another adult, completing the same set of actions.  I realized that it was a couple, working in tandem, probably feeding hungry and growing chick(s).  I don’t know if this chickadee belonged to that clutch, but I’m confident that it is young, newly experiencing a dangerous world, finding its way to food and cover. 

Fledgling birds must learn many survival skills, including making high–speed trips to feeders and lightening retreats to safety.  As they perfect those skills, my ability to easily observe diminishes–as it should. 

My little chickadee’s life depends on well-learned lessons and well-executed skills. 

23 thoughts on “My Little Chickadee

  1. Tina, as you talk about him, you really like the little bird. The story you tell about how the young bird should behave and how adult birds behave is very interesting and shows that you are concerned about their safety. I love your little chickadee: he is very handsome and charming. The photos are magnificent and wonderful: I love them. I have never seen a bird so closely and in so many different positions. It is adorable. Take good care of yourself and your husband, and keep both of you safe. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita.

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    • Haha, Margarita, I really to like this little one, though I’m not sure if it’s a he or a she! Carolina Chickadees are such pretty little things, it’s nice to see them up-close and not moving! I hope you’re well!

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      • Tina thank you very much. My mother and I are very well. In the end you have confessed that you like the little bird: hahaha !! I’m glad you have a very special “pet” to look at and enjoy with he or she. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita.

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    • Thanks, Steve–I was happy with the shot, the chickadee, happy with the peanuts.

      I guess I have a lack of imagination when it comes to bird song. I rarely think the English words describing the birds’ songs/calls sound like what the birds are actually saying. I hear the notes and they’re musical to me, not verbal.

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      • Those animal names are stylized versions of the sounds, as are the words for the sounds themselves. They vary by language, so the rooster that says cock-a-doodle-doo in English says kikirikí in Spanish and cocorico French.

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  2. Nice timing – you got some great shots! I kind of think the word Chickadee itself indicates those blazingly fast darts back and forth. It seems a very high energy word.

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  3. I’ve noticed that snatch-and-fly technique with my chickadees. At first, I thought they just were getting used to the feeders (and that may have been part of it) but it’s clearly a behavior pattern, and I’m glad to have you affirm that. I’m sure they have babies, too, but I’ve not seen anything that looks like a young one yet. It may be that I just can’t recognize a fledgling.

    They’re sure having a hard time of it just now. We have terrific rain and wind, and some hail. The good news is that we have plenty of shrubs around that are thick and out of the wind — I’ve never worried so much about birds in my life!

    Any tips for dealing with cats? There’s a big, strong, healthy looking orange and white one that’s shown up. I wouldn’t have known it, except it went after a bird on my patio full tilt, and slammed into the sliding glass door. It’s been back once, but a certain crazed woman went after it full tilt, hissing and waving her arms! I haven’t seen it since.

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    • I thought at first that maybe you were living next to a dangerous neighbor, but then realize…:)

      Ugh, cats. I love’em, have two of them, they’re indoor/outdoor, but wear birds-be-safe collars and don’t leave my sight. You might squirt the cat with water, along with hissing at it, but other than clearly making your displeasure with him understood, outdoor cats will be outdoor cats. I worry most during spring and fall migration and fledging time–like now.

      I’m still watching the little one, he/she is so cute! The titmice are also snatch-n-grabs, though they’re a little more laid-back and tend to spend more time at the feeder.

      Hail always scares me, vis-a-vis, birds; it’s not good to have a chunk of ice land on your head, especially when you’re little! Our weather will calm down, but like you, we’ve had plenty of drama in that department recently.

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