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, March 5, 2017

Chickadee birdhouse hole size

When it warmed up a couple weeks ago the cute little Black-capped Chickadees that ate in harmony with each other all winter, turned feisty. You could hear chickadees fighting verbally all over the place. I found their little fusses very cute, but for them it was very serious.

At the end of January chickadees begin to explore potential nest sites so that as soon as the flocks begin to break up for breeding, each monogamous pair can claim a territory within their home range. The chickadees usually live within 10 miles of where they were born for their whole life.

The intense fighting stopped temporarily when it got cold again but will start over once the flocks break up for good in the spring. On the rare occasion a chickadee doesn’t get a territory, they become summer floaters, keeping out of the way of resident pairs.

Chickadees like to nest in natural cavities like knotholes in trees, or old woodpecker nests. Where these are scarce chickadees will use bird houses. Putting some wood shavings in the bottom of the bird house may attract chickadees, as they seem to prefer freshly excavated holes. (Don’t be surprised if they throw them out as if they were excavating their own hole.) The hole entrance on a chickadee bird house should be at least 1 ¼” and some of our Michigan chubby chickadees might even prefer the 1 ½” hole.

Related Articles:

Best Bird Houses http://bit.ly/AuLTJt
Why don't chickadees stay to eat at the feeder? http://bit.ly/AkKThH
After chickadee babies have fledged http://bit.ly/yAYbP4
Fun Facts About Chickadees http://bit.ly/zIDkCi
What Do Black-Capped Chickadees Eat? http://bit.ly/zxi04X
Bird of the Week: Black-capped Chickadee http://bit.ly/A1YFQ4


Lois Bryan said...

... they are darling ... when I was in Canada a few years ago at Presquile, the chickadees were so used to people that we could put sunflower seeds on our heads and they'd swoop in and grab them. Ahh ... the seeds, of course, not our heads, lol.

I've got a problem that I am not sure I've solved and maybe you've got some ideas. Our birdie population, usually a fabulous mix of nearly everything and everybody, has dropped dramatically. I took the feeders down and cleaned them carefully. That didn't do it. Now I am finally facing up to what I think might be the culprit.

I've got a mockingbird that has claimed our backyard feeding station as his own. We moved here a year and a half ago, but at our old house, this never happened. In fact, it was a rarity to have mockingbirds even fly by and perch on the trees, (other than the front yard once in awhile where they seemed to like to nest). Our resident bird-in-chief there was a cardinal who was always very magnanimous and kind to other birdies. (He also came when I called, and I came when he called.)

So you talk about territorial!! This guy has managed to shoo off all the other birdies ... I've seen him do it over and over ... and our station remains full of uneaten seeds. I removed the suet cakes a couple of days ago, which he liked and which is what I hope attracted him. Was sorry to disappoint the woodpeckers, but I honestly am at a loss as to what else to do if this doesn't work. Do you have any suggestions?

A friend had the idea of ringing a bell to scare him off ... she tried it on a pesky hawk and said it eventually worked. But I can't imagine sitting there, ringing a bell all day for days on end. Not sure the neighbors would appreciate it either, lol.

Thank you for any insight!!

Lois Bryan

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

Northern Mockingbirds are a rare winter resident here in Michigan, but in the spring people do tell me about how they were dive bombed when they got too close to a nest. This aggressive behavior in defending their home is very common. They mark their borders twice a year; once in the spring for nesting season and then again in the fall to protect winter food sources.

Mockingbirds can be quite determined when defending what they view as their territory. And I think you have placed the feeder within his borders unknowingly. Now he sees it as his duty to guard the feeder as well as other food sources in this area against all other invading birds.

As frustrating as the situation is, we have to remember mockingbirds are natural pest controllers and seed dispersers. They eat lots of bugs like beetles, ants, wasps, and grasshoppers in the summer and a wide variety of fruits and berries during the winter.

Mockingbirds may visit our feeding stations for suet, raisins, fruit, mealworms or nuts. Make sure you’re not feeding anything that is attractive to the mockingbirds.

Is the feeder near a fruit tree or berry bush that he likes? If the food in the feeder isn’t attractive to the mockingbird it has to be the location. To stop the attack on other birds you’ll probably have to move the feeder you have to a new location or place a second feeder in a different location out of his sight.

For the best answers to questions about local birds you can always contact your closest Wild Birds Unlimited store for more help.

Lois Bryan said...

Thanks for your insight. I think you've confirmed what I'm experiencing here at our new house.

As to the dive-bombing, yes, it was a problem at our old home more than once. Walking out to the mailbox could be a combo of comical and hazardous, some years, if they'd decided to nest in one of our big trees.

And yes I'm aware that they love to eat insects ... and considering my skin is apparently made of bug-food (they love me) having a mockingbird around isn't an all bad situation. I guess. Though not so much in winter.

I think this particular mocking bird decided to make our yard his territory last fall ... seems like our birdie population has dropped off all winter, very unusual, and I'd noticed that mocking bird hanging around since about the same time. Last time I filled the main feeder, I mixed the sunflower seeds with a fun "deluxe" bag that did include nuts and dehydrated fruit in hopes of attracting some new-comers. I think I'll go out right now and remove that and just use the regular black oil sunflower seeds. And cross my fingers!!

Thanks again for your thoughts!!

Lois Bryan