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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Identifying baby chickadees

How do you tell if they are baby chickadees?

Baby Black-capped Chickadees in nest boxImage by Dunbar Gardens via Flickr
At first glance the male, female, and juvenile chickadees all look pretty much the same to the human eye. Fluffy fresh faced birds are usually the babies and they usually have shorter tail feathers too, because they are still growing. Parents are looking a little haggard by now.

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.

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 any of the bigger birds at the feeders.

Eventually, the parents will 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.

Related Articles:
- Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://goo.gl/bEl3h 
- Quiz on Chickadees http://goo.gl/0cI03 
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/jAtN5 
- Fun Facts about the different Chickadees in North America http://bit.ly/zIDkCi 
- Not a Shy Bird: How the Black-capped Chickadee Communicates http://goo.gl/1rlnh

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