About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Chickadees all look pretty much the same to the human eye

I just saw some baby chickadees. They came out of the nest fully dressed in their brand new suits and hats. They were so cute! However I did notice, because of an earlier post you wrote called “Identify Younger Birds at Your Feeders” that they all had shorter tails then the parents. I love the blog and just wanted to share the experience with someone who might appreciate the scene. ~ Webberville, Michigan

Baby Black-capped Chickadees in nest boxImage by Dunbar Gardens via Flickr
Thank you for writing. I do appreciate your description of baby chickadees and agree 100%, they’re too cute! I’ve been watching a family at my house too. Black-capped Chickadees bop about from feeder to bush, bush to feeder. They weigh about a ½ ounce but aren’t intimidated in the least by the Blue Jays or Starlings at my peanut feeders.

Male, Female, and juvenile chickadees all look pretty much the same to the human eye. After the female incubates her eggs for about two weeks, practically naked nestlings hatch. Their eyes are closed and there is a little gray down on their heads and wings.

Well fed nestlings grow quickly and fledge from their nest box or tree cavity about two weeks after hatching. Mom and dad birds may bring food to the box and refuse to feed them while still inside to encourage them to leave the nest at this time.

Once the baby birds have fledged they move around in a family group. At first they depend on the parents but soon catch on to picking out objects that might be food. This is the best time to watch them at the feeders. But eventually, the parents take the young farther and farther from the nest site. The once guarded boundaries of chickadee territories are now open to family groups. 

This family vacation or training period lasts for about 3 to 4 weeks and then the tight cohesive unit will disperse. Scientists aren’t sure what triggers the break, but the young take off suddenly in different directions. They settle down finally, long distances from their natal territory.

The young hook up with other young birds new to the area and join local adults to form winter flocks. Once settled in their new territory, most will remain in the same general area for the rest of their adult lives.

Wonderful information as always! I’m so sad my babies will leave soon, but I’ll keep the feeder full and hope I entice some of those new, young, swingers to my territory for the winter. Thank you very much. Jan