Carolina Chickadee--Fauna of the Week

Carolina Chickadee--Fauna of the Week

The Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) is one of my all-time favorite birds. Small, quick, talkative and FULL of attitude! They are frequent visitors to my feeders and are a joy to watch. According to All About Birds, John James Audubon actually named this bird on a visit to South Carolina.

Smaller than a Black-Capped Chickadee, the Carolina Chickadee sports the same black cap and black bib, but has less brownishness on the sides under the wings. He sports white cheeks, gray wings and tail and a sassy mouth. For his size, his tail is long. Like many other insect eaters, the Carolina Chickadee has a small, slender beak. Three seasons out of the year this little guy's diet is eighty to ninety percent insects and spiders. This does mean, of course, that if you don't have any bugs you won't have any insect-eating birds like the marvelous Carolina Chickadee. So when you are feeling bug-plagued, just remind yourself that bugs are the main course on the bird buffet.

We have always seen Carolina Chickadees fraternizing with Tufted Titmice (another avian favorite). I refer to both of them as "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed," just because of their high activity levels. A fascinating bit of behavioral stuff from All About Birds:

During migration and winter, other species associate with Carolina Chickadees, which are found with other species about 50 percent of the time. Tufted Titmice, which are dominant over them, are the most common flock associates. Black-capped Chickadees, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets, Red-breasted, White-breasted and Brown-headed nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and Downy and Hairy woodpeckers tend to gravitate to these flocks, which are led by the Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, or both. 

And I thought they were just sassing each other. Never knew they were the leaders of the band!

Carolina Chickadees will readily come to feeders and gobble up a number of different offerings during the winter, when plant sources make up around fifty percent of their diet. They particularly enjoy black oil sunflower seeds, suet and shelled peanuts. When peanuts are available, they will spend a lot of time "hanging out" close to the treasured feeder, along with titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers and others. (Feeder at right is an Audubon feeder.)

If available, Carolina Chickadees prefer cavities in trees for nesting. Even better is a cavity on the edge of a group of trees that faces a clearing. In suburban yards, large trees are required to attract chickadees. If the trees lack cavities for nesting, the birds will use nesting boxes. Entrance holes should be no more than 1 1/8" in diameter to prevent larger birds from getting to the eggs. For more specific information on nest box dimensions, check out this link.

Housing for chickadees is readily available, but be sure you select for the Carolina if these are the birds in your area. Further north the Black-Capped Chickadee rules, and he is a larger bird.

Arboretum in the Fall

Arboretum in the Fall

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Photo Essay: Staging A Takeover