About us: We own a wild bird feeding supply 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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Short-tailed Grackles or Piggies with black feathers

What are these short-tailed grackles that are starting to come to my feeders? Did they just migrate here? ~ Lansing

They are European Starlings. They are here in mid-Michigan year round but tend to flock and eat fruit and nuts in the winter just like American Robins and Cedar Waxwings instead of coming to feeders regularly.

The European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) molts its feathers in the fall and the new black feathers have tips that are whitish, giving the bird the appearance of “stars” covering their body. Over the winter, sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look and the bird becomes uniform dark brown or black.

Both sexes also have reddish brown legs, and seasonal changes in bill color (yellow in the spring, black in the fall). Males sport a bluish spot at the base of their beaks, while the female displays a reddish pink speck. Juvenile birds are large dull gray or black.

At the end of February the birds begin to look for nesting territories. You may notice that the infrequent visits in the winter increase to overwhelming hoards in the spring. The European Starling is insectivorous when breeding and typically consumes insects including caterpillars, moths, and cicadas, as well as spiders.

Right now they’re all excited! Nesting season is near! Like at a start of a race, there is energy in the air and it feels like it’s going to burst! Unfortunately most of the bugs (their favorite summer food) haven’t appeared yet and in March there are still slim pickings for a lot of birds. So they turn to feasting at your feeders.

While I love all the activity, I know most normal people don’t. So what can you do to deter the starlings and blackbirds, but still attract cardinals, chickadees, finches, and all the other less boisterous backyard birds?

Feeder Choices
  • Squirrel Buster Plus- This feeder is guaranteed Squirrel and large bird proof. You can exclude large nuisance birds with this feeder by rolling in the perches to make them short. You can also adjust the tension on the spring mechanism to have the feeder ports shut when large birds land. Blackbirds weigh twice as much as cardinals.
  • Upside Down Suet Feeder- a feeder that dispenses suet from the bottom doesn’t phase a woodpecker but will deter most blackbirds.
  • Finch Feeders- I’ve never had a problem with the blackbirds on any finch feeders that are filled with straight nyger thistle seed.
Food Choices
  • Use pure beef suet with no seeds
  • Switch to straight safflower seed: Start by offering safflower gradually, mixing it with the seed you currently use. Over time increase the amount of safflower until you are feeding straight safflower. The seed looks and tastes different from other bird seed, so it may take your birds some time to adjust. Safflower is a small, white seed that is high in protein and fat. Many favorite backyard birds - including jays, cardinals, chickadees, finches, doves, woodpeckers, titmice and nuthatches- savor safflower. Blackbirds, starlings, and squirrels typically refuse to eat safflower seed.
Related Articles:
·        What are those birds that sit on the wires? http://bit.ly/y608rz
·         Fun Facts About European Starlings http://bit.ly/rSQtFD
·         How do thousands of European Starlings fly without colliding? http://bit.ly/vwM3Ra
·         What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/w3ZBGa
·         What do grackles eat? http://bit.ly/xBhX3j

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fun Facts on the Eastern Bluebird

• The name “bluebird” is actually a bit misleading. Most bird colorations are due to pigments deposited in their feathers. A Northern Cardinal is red because of the red pigment called carotenoids. Crows are black because their feathers contain a dark pigment called melanin. In contrast, bluebirds do not have a single molecule of blue pigment in any of their feathers. The top transparent layer of each bluebird feather is filled with miniscule pockets of air. When sunlight strikes these pockets, all of the other visible wavelengths of light are absorbed. Only blue escapes and it is scattered in all directions for the eye to see.
• Males will carry nesting material during courtship, but the female is the one that completes the nest alone in two to five days. Bluebirds have also been observed coming and going during several weeks before completing one nest.
• Nests are light and airy, consisting of fine grass or pine needles, hair and maybe a few feathers, with a small cup shape in the center.
• Pesticides; (pyrethrins or rotenone or any others), are not recommended as bluebirds are thin skinned and sensitive to toxins.
• Swallows have been known to help bluebirds raise their young and then use the nest box once the bluebirds have fledged.

Also check out The Michigan Bluebird Society website:
http://www.michiganbluebirdsociety.org/. It is a group of individuals dedicated to helping bluebirds and other cavity nesting bird species in the state of Michigan.
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Is it too early for the robins and bluebirds?

Hello, I have several bluebirds in my yard and I've never had them before!  Are they migratory?  Why are they here now?? I also had a robin yesterday! Kind of worried about them, should I be? ~ Marcia

There is no need to worry. Some America Robins migrate but if you look at the range map you’ll see that there are winter populations of Robins in most states year round. Robins are surprisingly hardy birds, capable of surviving temperatures well below zero. But that doesn’t mean sightings are common.

After nesting season has ended, they usually form large nomadic groups that roost at night in the woods. Their diet changes from mostly worms and insects to fruit, nuts and berries.

I’ve seen them devouring our crab apples, Mountain Ash tree berries, and sometimes under my feeders looking for nuts. They also appreciate open water in the winter. If you have a pond or heated birdbath they may show up for afternoon drinks.

The Eastern Bluebirds also gathers in large family flocks at the end of nesting season and live more in the woods. They forage on fruit, nuts, and berries. If you have fruiting trees or bluebird feeders and a reliable source of water, you may host the bluebirds year-round.

With the lengthening of daylight the birds are becoming more active. Nesting season is just around the corner. Make sure your houses are ready and feeders and baths are full.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Photo Share: Crane and Grouse

Found mainly in woodlands with small clearings, the Ruffed Grouse is a year round resident of Michigan. They differ from other grouse species in their courtship display by relying entirely on a non-vocal acoustic display, known as drumming.

The drumming itself is a rapid, wing-beating display that creates a low frequency sound, starting slow and speeding up (thump...thump...thump..thump-thump-thump-thump). Even in thick woods this can be heard for a quarter mile or more

The Sandhill Crane is a summer resident in Michigan. They are among the first birds to return in mid February in the southern parts of the state and a month later in the northern areas. Once almost completely gone from Michigan waters, the Sandhill Cranes are now flourishing and have become a popular sight around our lakes.

Cranes live about 25 to 30 years and wait to choose a mate until thy're 4-years old. Crane families stay together for awhile, then young birds begin to hang out together in groups of 20, called a "bachelor flock."

When sandhill cranes are ready to mate, they begin a unique courtship ritual that starts with bowing and jumping movements that increase in tempo until the whole flock is dancing.

While they dance, the pair lets out a series of loud calls. The male utters a note followed quickly by the female's two-note answer. Sometimes you can hear them from 2 miles away on quiet spring mornings.

Joshua Chrisman (Creator and Admin of Michigan's Wildlife on www.facebook.com/MichigansWildlife) sent us these lovely pictures that he took last year.

Thank you for sharing your photos! If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com and I'll put it on the Friday Photo posts. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

This week's focus is on Aspects’ Quick-Clean Nyjer Tube Feeders

At Wild Birds Unlimited you can choose from a variety of the very best feeders. Most are made in America and have a lifetime guarantee.

This week's focus is on Aspects’ Quick-Clean Nyjer Tube Feeders. They combine heavy die-cast metal caps and base with a clear UV stabilized polycarbonate tube that won't yellow with age and will lasts a lifetime.  

A built-in seed deflector in the base allows birds to remove every last seed. While the revolutionary removable base makes cleaning the feeder a snap!

You can add a seed tray to attract more birds, or protect the feeder from the elements with an Aspects’ weather dome.  

The finch feeder is available in three sizes and colors at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What birds do to combat the high winds

How can small birds fly in strong winds?

The stronger the winds, the more energy the bird expends in flying. When the high winds hit like they did yesterday in mid-Michigan, a bird can exhaust itself fighting the turbulence. But they can't afford to stop on every windy day or they would starve to death.

These are the days your feeders may be empty for long periods of time and then covered in birds when there is a little break in the weather.

Birds are going to stick close to home in bad weather but when they finally have to venture out for food, you will see a lot of gliding. They don’t want to fly too fast with the wind or waste energy going against the wind. They sort of get where they’re going by riding the winds and then making a couple flaps for course correction. It's not easy.

Thanks for the really good question!

Related Articles:
-          Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/w3bhs8
-          Weather is everywhere. http://bit.ly/ybOkpT
-          Where birds go when it storms http://bit.ly/xpvtC0
-       How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP   
-       How can birds fly in the rain?  http://goo.gl/EkW48 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Birdsongs herald the approach of spring

There is still a lot of snow on the ground but you may have noticed that as the days get longer, the birds are beginning to sing more. What triggers this change in behavior?

A key part of a bird’s brain is affected by seasonal change. When birds are exposed to longer days, the cells start to release a thyroid-stimulating hormone, previously associated only with growth and metabolism. It indirectly stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete further hormones called gonadotrophins, causing male birds' testicles to grow and, results in increased singing during breeding season.

So now is the time to be thinking about providing nesting material and nesting boxes to attract wild birds in your yard because there is nothing like birds’ songs to herald the approach of spring.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

A closer look at the National Bird of the USA

The United States started the trend for national birds when it made the Bald Eagle its avian representative over 200 years ago. In 1789 George Washington became our Nation's first President and the American Bald Eagle became our Country's official bird.

President John F. Kennedy later wrote: "The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the Bald Eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America."

Fun Facts About Bald Eagles

The Bald Eagle continues to overcome adversity and fascinate nature lovers.
  • Bald Eagles have faced many perils since the 20th century, due mostly to human interactions. Though they have been on the 'endangered species' list, moved to the 'threatened' list and have been recovering well with breeding pair introductions in many states, they still have a long way to go to reach their previously estimated population sizes.
  • The Bald Eagle lives throughout a large part of North America, primarily in the US and Canada, and is usually found near rivers and bodies of water.
    An immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephal...Image via Wikipedia
    Immature Bald Eagle
    Bald Eagles are opportunistic feeders and usually prefer to eat fresh fish. During winter, they will eat more birds, mammals and carrion.
  • Bald Eagles usually hunt from a high perch and glide down to catch their prey. They will strike from the air and are known to wade into shallow streams or rivers for fish.
  • Bald Eagles are pulled into the water occasionally while trying to catch large fish and then, using their wings to mimic a motion that is similar to the butterfly stroke, break free from the water.
  • Pairs perform dramatic aerial displays. The most impressive display involves the two eagles flying to great height, locking talons and then tumbling perilously toward the earth, breaking apart just before they would hit the ground.
  • Bald Eagles generally mate for life. They renew their pair bonds each year by adding new sticks and branches to their massive nests in which they usually lay two to three eggs.
  • Haliaeetus leucocephalus (bald eagle) landing ...Image via WikipediaBald Eagles have the largest nest of any North American bird and it can take months to build. Average nests measure about 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall and are made of sticks and branches. The biggest recorded Bald Eagle nest was about 9 feet wide and 18 feet tall.
  • Male Bald Eagles help the females incubate the eggs, and both care for the young after they hatch.
  • Both parents are very careful around the eggs while in the nest. They will even clench their toes to possibly prevent the eggs from being punctured by their talons.
  • Babies hatch in about 35 to 46 days and will leave the nest in 10 to 11 weeks. However, they will still be fed for a month after fledging.
  • Juvenile Bald Eagles gradually spend time on their own away from their parents and learn to hunt by trial and error. They may eat a lot of carrion, especially fish, till they master hunting live food.
  • Bald Eagles do not mature until their forth or fifth year, only then receiving their characteristic white head and tail plumage.
  • Immature Bald Eagles have been known to explore vast areas for multiple years. Some Floridian young have been seen in Michigan, and some Californian young have gone as far north as Alaska.
For more information about Bald Eagles, visit All About Birds- the Cornell Lab of Ornithology online bird guide.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Try to count these birds: Red-billed quelea is the most abundant bird on the planet today

You think your birds are eating you out of house and home, just be glad you’re not feeding the Red-billed quelea (Quelea quelea).  Native to bush, grasslands, and savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa this small finch is the most abundant bird on the planet today.

Each day, queleas consume their weight in seeds from native annual grasses. Often referred to as ‘feathered locusts’, queleas can form nomadic super-colonies of up to 30 million, feeding on ripe sorghum, wheat, barley, rice, sunflowers and corn.
Red-billed Quelea distribution map

During the breeding season, hatchlings are initially fed caterpillars, grasshoppers and other insects, before being fed grass seeds. A colony in Namibia was estimated to comprise 4.8 million adults and 4.8 million fledglings, and consumed approximately 13 tons of insects and 800–1200 tons of grass seeds during its breeding cycle.

The video below shows 1.5 billion Red-billed quelea swarming over Africa’s savannah. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Red-billed_Quelea

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

GBBC eNews: The Count is Underway!

GBBC eNewsletter

Yellow dots on the map show where checklists are being submitted in real time.

GBBC is Underway Around the World

The Great Backyard Bird Count has officially begun! We're on a record-breaking pace with 928 species already reported by mid-day on the first day. The previous species record for the entire four-day count was just over 600!

Now is the time to be part of this massive citizen-science effort. Join tens of thousands of fellow bird watchers from around the world by counting birds and submitting your checklists to www.birdcount.org. Simply watch birds for at least 15 minutes at any location and tally the number of each bird species you see. Submit a new checklist for each day and for each new location. You can count in as many locations as you like. Just be sure to enter a new list for each site.

Here are a few things that you can do to help:

 Check this out: Jim Carpenter, CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited, longtime sponsor of the GBBC, talked about the count this morning on the network program Fox & Friends, and he brought some feathered friends with him!

GBBC Participant Perks

Drawing Prizes

Don't forget to check out some of the great prizes you could win just by taking part in the GBBC. We'll award prizes in a random drawing from among all participants. See the prizes.

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Behind the Scenes 

As bird sightings pour in at a record-breaking pace from around the world, our technical team is working hard to help keep all systems up and running smoothly. Some participants may have had trouble connecting to the website or signing in Friday morning. The team has resolved these issues, so if you encountered a problem before, please try again.

Tips for signing in:

• Remember that usernames and passwords are case sensitive. Double check your capital and lower case letters.

• If you're not yet signed in, you'll see two options after you click on the "Submit Your Checklists" button. Select the one you want—to either create a new account or sign in to an existing one.

Thank you for your patience and understanding! We are thrilled to see so many people participating from around the world. As the count continues, if you have trouble connecting to the website, please try again another time. You can submit your data any time during the count and afterward until March 1.

Visit Wild Birds Unlimited, a sponsor of the Great Backyard Bird Count!

Get Your Common Birds Poster

If you're new to birding, start learning a few of the most common species first. Download and print our PDF Guide to Common Birds. This poster features beautiful watercolors of some of the most common and easily identified birds found in the U.S. and Canada, and is a great way to start learning about common North American birds. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bohemian Waxwings with a few Cedar Waxwings thrown in

Mixed flock Bohemian Waxwings with
a few Cedar Waxwings thrown in.
About a week ago, someone was across the street, searching the trees with his binoculars; me being basically nosey, asked him what he was looking for, and he said there had been reports of Bohemian Waxwings in this area (Rose Lake, MI).  I said, "Oh, yeah, scads of them -- "Then I realized he was talking about Bohemian, not Cedar. After we figured that out, he said that they'd been reported in mixed flocks, and that they summer to the north.  I wished him luck, and he went on his way.

Today I was outside playing with my camera, and I heard the "purr" that says Waxwings are in the neighborhood. Took a while to locate the flock, way up in the top of a cottonwood, and then I started taking photos. Thru the lens I was able to see that, not only were Bohemian Waxwings a part of the flock, but they were easily the majority of the flock. So I guess I was right when I said there were "scads of them."

The pictures aren't great -- the tree was very tall, and of course they were at the very top -- but you can tell what you're looking at.  So I'm hoping that you will post the pics on your blog, and hopefully the man who was here last week will read this and come back.  Thanks! ~ Lynn

A pair that looks like maybe it would like to be 'a pair' –
at least until the Bohemian leaves for the north.

This was so nice of you to share your rare bird sighting! According to the Birds of Michigan field guide, the Bohemian Waxwings nest in northern forests in Alaska and western Canada, and visit Michigan only during winter in search of food.

In most years, Bohemians are only seen in small groups, usually intermingled with overwintering flocks of the similar-looking Cedar Waxwings. However, their shorter tail and chestnut colored undertail coverts distinguish them readily from the Cedar Waxwings' white undertail.

The Bohemian Waxwing is an irruptive species. As their name suggests, they lead a nomadic lifestyle and move around based on where they can locate food. So when you hear the high pitched trill of the Cedar Waxwings, listen for the rougher and lower pitched call of the Bohemian Waxwing.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about birds, but there is a way to help personally. The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is an annual four-day event beginning the third weekend in February that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds you see in your area to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are all around the world. Anyone can participate. It’s easy, free, fun, and can take as little as 15 minutes.

From the past bird counts, researchers at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology have an unprecedented wealth of data to create a snapshot of bird distribution and the effects of weather. Food availability may be the primary factor influencing some species’ winter ranges, but snow cover may also play a role. The longer data is collected, the more meaningful it becomes in helping scientists investigate far-reaching questions, like:

• How will the weather influence bird populations?
• Why do irruptive species appear in large numbers during some years but not others?
• How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
• How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
• What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bird Courtship

Birds court one another with dances, songs and building nests!

Love's Old Sweet Song
Image by linda yvonne via Flickr
Soon you will begin to see male wild birds try to draw the attention of females, and their courtship practices can be as fascinating as they are complex.

Originally scientists thought that many birds, such as geese, swans and eagles, mated for life only seeking a new mate when the original partner died. Recent research shows that some species are faithful to their pair-bonding only for a season, while others actually have multiple mates simultaneously. For example, after hummingbirds mate, the male will court another female. Male House Wrens build multiple nests and let the female choose the one she prefers. Then, the male may try to attract another female to occupy one of his other nests.

Red-winged Blackbird, Point Pelee National Par...Image via Wikipedia
Bird courtship displays are integral to mating and raising young. Female birds often choose suitors based on appearance, the ability to provide food, evidence that the male can build the strongest and safest nest and other characteristics.

With some species, the male simply flies in front of the female to show off his luminous colors or unique markings. And some birds touch bills or groom each other during courtship.

Male jays and cardinals often present food gifts to their potential mates while Mourning Doves and mockingbirds fluff up their feathers and “dance.” Some seabirds and waterfowl bob their heads, bow and flutter their wings to attract their mates. Cranes are well known for their fantastic dancing as they begin their courtship.

If you have woodpeckers in your yard, you probably already know one way these birds go after a partner – by rat-tat-tatting on your house or gutter downspouts. They can make quite a racket – the louder the better! Other birds use sound to attract their mates but do so with a song or repertoire of songs. The same rule applies – more is better! A male with a larger repertoire of songs may be considered more attractive than one with only a few songs.

From dancing to eating to nest building to singing, birds have many courtship rituals. And springtime is the most likely time for you spot some of these unique behaviors right in your own backyard!

Peek out the window and let us know what signs of spring’s renewal you spot!

Source: http://www.wbu.com/education/birdcourtship.html
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bright yellow spring feathers begin to replace goldfinches dull brown winter feathers

I’m new to bird watching. Do you have a book that shows the backyard birds in their winter colors? We have a lot of brown birds and I’m having a hard time telling the difference. ~ Birch Run, Michigan
Most of our backyard birds in Michigan go through only one full molt a year in the fall. They replace their tired old feathers with a new set that will last until next fall. Most of the brown birds you are seeing at the feeders are probably just that, little brown birds that are brown their whole life. The two exceptions are the European Starlings and the American Goldfinches.

Starlings molt their feathers in the fall too, but their new feathers are black with white tips giving the bird “stars”. Over the winter sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look and the bird becomes uniform dark brown or black.

The American Goldfinches are the only mid-Michigan finch to go through a molt in the fall and one in the spring. The male goldfinches molt into duller winter colors that resemble the female's soft olive green and subdued yellow tones. And just when it seems as though winter will last forever, the male goldfinch forecasts spring’s arrival with the reappearance of its glamorous buttery yellow.
Color can be confusing. Any of our Birds of Michigan books can help you identify birds as well as any of the North American field guides we have at Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan.

So what are all the brown birds you are seeing at the feeders? The most common backyard winter brown birds in Michigan are: House Sparrows, Dark-eyedJuncos, Carolina Wrens, female House Finches, Pine Siskins, Cedar Waxwings, Brown Creepers, Common Redpolls, female Northern Cardinals, European Starlings and American Goldfinches.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ant moats for hummingbird feeders

Hi, I have a couple questions for Wild Birds Unlimited. I know it’s a bit early, but at what point should I put out our hummingbird feeder? Also, do you carry ant moats? ~ Haslett, MI

As flu season ends it’s inevitable that hummingbird fever begins. The days are getting longer and people are anxious for spring and the arrival of certain birds and flowers. If you check out the migration maps at www.hummingbirds.net you’ll see that Ruby-thoated hummingbirds begin to travel north as early as the end of February.

Hummingbirds migrate alone, each to their own internal clock and map. As the weather warms individuals will begin to reach Michigan in mid-April and the final ones will arrive in June. I always say in mid-Michigan you have to pay your taxes and put out your hummingbird feeders by April 15th. The first hummingbirds probably won’t stick around but continue on to nest in the Upper Peninsula or Canada. The hummingbirds that choose to nest in our area (the regulars) usually arrive by Mothers Day, the second Sunday in May.

If you feed hummingbirds, you know that the nectar can attract a line of ants from your feeder to the ground. You can help the hummers eat in peace if you install an ant "moat" between the feeder and the hanging hook. An ant moat is a small cup-like device that hangs between your feeder and your hook. Just like a water moat protects a castle, fill an ant moat with water, and it creates a barrier the ants can’t cross to get to the nectar. We carry several styles of ant moats, however most people choose to go with our popular hummingbird feeders that have built-in ant moats.

My favorite hummingbird feeder is the HighView™ mini saucer style. These hummingbird feeders are easy to fill and more importantly easy to clean. The saucer style is leak proof and bee resistant and the built in ant-moat stops ants from reaching the nectar. The feeder has high perches that invite hummingbirds to rest comfortably as they drink from any of three feeding ports while also offering an unobstructed view of the birds.

The bright red cover also attracts hummingbirds from a distance and has raised flowers to prevent rain from running into the bowl. The feeder is constructed with UV stable poly carbonate, the most durable plastic available and is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. The hanging rod is solid brass. It comes with a lifetime guarantee, and is made in the USA. Our Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) saucer style feeders come in different sizes and colors too. 

We also have the Jewel Box window hummingbird feeder. The semicircular-shaped reservoir holds up to 8 ounces of nectar, has three raised flowers feeding ports, an optional ant moat and window or deck mounting options. The feeder is bright red to help attract hummingbirds and it’s made in the USA with a lifetime guarantee.

The built-in ant moats for both of these feeders blocks crawling insects and the patented Nectar-Guard tips (optional) on the feeding ports prevent bees, wasps, and other flying insects from contaminating nectar.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

What the "dee" in Chick-a-dee means

I have a Wild Birds Unlimited window feeder that my cats and I have been enjoying all winter. I especially like it when the Black-capped Chickadee stops by to tseet, tseet hello, pick out a seed that pleases him and zip away. At about a ½ ounce, these slight birds have no problem feeding with much bigger birds or asking me to refill the feeder.

Chickadees have a couple kinds of songs and lots of different calls. Songs are usually longer and used to attract mates or deter male rivals. Calls are usually shorter notes with a variety of meanings such as look out for the danger, hello, or foods here.

At the end of nesting season, young chickadees leave the territory they were hatched and join non-family flocks to forage for food together all winter. The flocks usually are equal in the numbers of males and females and pairs form.

In the Wild Bird Guides: Black-capped Chickadee, Susan Smith writes that the fascinating thing about the chick-a-dee call is that the dee notes of the chickadees that live together for a while meld to form a common dee for the group. Then chickadees can identify to which flock other chickadees belong. Studies also suggest that the proportion of each note type within a chick-a-dee call could encode information about what the caller is most likely to do next.

At the end of January chickadees begin to explore potential nest sites (bird houses) so that as soon as the flocks begin to break up for breeding, each pair can claim a territory within their home range. Flock ranges can be anywhere between 20-50 acres in size.

As chickadees dispute territory rights, the loud whistled fee-bee-beeyee songs become a familiar sound. You’ll hear male chickadees engage in prolonged fee-bees battles with their male neighbors.
Besides defending a territory a male must woo his mate by feeding her tasty treats. The female receives her gifts with a broken dees vocalization made exclusively by the females.

The male continues to present the female with food while the nest is being built and during egg incubation. When the nestlings hatch, poppa bird is there with food for the babies too. With a little squawk call, he prompts the babies to open up. Squawk calls can be given by either parent to stimulate their babies mouth to gape for food.
If the parents feel threatened by the approach a predator near the nest, a chickadee can take a defensive stance and produce a loud hiss call along with a sudden forward and downward head movement that resembles a striking snake.

When babies leave the nest you may hear a begging dee call at your feeders that sounds a lot like “feed me! Feed me me!” The young chickadees continue to give the begging dees until their family flock breaks up and they disperse from their natal territory.

Listen to a sample of the sounds of the Black-Capped Chickadee: http://www.birdjam.com/birdsong.php?id=12
Source: Wild Bird Guides: Black-capped Chickadee available at Wild Birds Unlimited

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