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Bird Watch: Cheery Chickadees

By Brian M. Collins
Published: January 27, 2010
Photo by Brian M. Collins

Chickadees are the heart and soul of every forest. They are tough and tenacious, curious and, as birds go, wonderfully optimistic. Birds of this family are most often recognized by a dark cap and bib, but many species also have a crest.

Often remarkably tame, chickadees are common birds at bird feeders that offer sunflower seeds. Rather than stay at the feeder, a chickadee tends to shuttle seeds to a favorite perch where it holds each seed between its feet and hammers it open with sharp beak blows.

Migrating birds often watch for feeding chickadees like tourists seeking information from the local residents. A chickadees work through the trees in search of insects and seeds, they unlock the mysteries of the forest for countless other species. The curious and sentinel nature of chickadees makes them particularly adept at finding dangerous predators, and their vigil provides an additional service to flocks of migrating birds trying to survive in unfamiliar places.

Chickadees often nest in used real estate, cavities in dead trees that have been excavated by woodpeckers and other primary cavity nesters. Sometimes chickadees will enlarge the cavity or even excavate a nest of their own, dropping beakful after beakful of papery, pulpy wood on the forest floor.

Chickadees are birdwatcher-friendly, active and tame. From coast to coast, these birds are a delightful spectrum of color and personality.

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