Chickadees have to molt every one of their feathers each year in late summer and early fall. They are done nesting, it’s still warm hopefully and there is plenty of high fat and high protein foods available to help them grow quality feathers to sustain them through the next winter, spring and summer.
If a chickadee has an accident or a close call with a predator and loses a bunch of feathers, a healthy chickadee can grow replacement feathers quickly. In a few weeks the tail can grow back and look completely normal. But sometimes the replacement feathers might come in white and then change back to the normal color at the next regular molt. The white feathers may not be as strong as the originals but they can still help the chickadee steer his flight.
If you’ve ever watched a chickadee flying you know that even with proper tail feathers their flight is slightly undulating with rapid wing beats and their maximum speed is only 12 mph. But that suits the Black-capped Chickadees because they seldom go very far. Most live their whole adult life in a small area and their average flights are about 50 feet. The birds hop along tree branches searching for food, sometimes hanging upside down or hovering and they may make short flights to catch insects in the air.
Hopefully the chickadee you observed with no tail has learned his lesson and will grow another healthy tail and steer clear of further dangers. And if you continue to fill your feeders with sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet he has even greater success at survival. Research has found that survival rate of chickadees near feeders nearly doubled, compared to those birds that obtained less-accessible food from the wild during severe winters.
Help Chickadees Feel at HomeChickadees are among the easiest birds to lure into your yard, especially during winter. Here are a few tips to help attract them:
1. Chickadee food: Put out fresh sunflower seeds, peanuts, seed cylinders or suets.
2. Chickadee feeder: Almost any bird feeder will attract chickadees if it offers good food. I like to use the no-mess blend which has sunflower chips and peanut halves.
3. Chickadee habitat: Chickadees like natural cover near feeders to pop into and avoid predators or harsh weather.
4. Chickadee house: Roosting pockets or a small birdhouse with a 1 1/4-inch entrance hole, placed in heavy natural cover, will provide a winter shelter for the birds.