Black Capped Chickadee – Birds for Kids

Chicka-dee-dee: chicka-dee-dee: he introduces himself.
How easy it would be for every child to know the birds if all would but sing out their names so clearly! Oh, don’t you wish they would?

“Piped a tiny voice near by
Gay and polite—a cheerful cry—
Chick-chickadeedee! Saucy note
Out of sound heart and merry throat.
As if it said, ‘Good day, good Sir!
Fine afternoon, old passenger!
Happy to meet you in these places
Where January brings few faces.'”

04 Black Capped Chickadee

Black-capped chickadee
Alternative Title – Poecile atricapilla
Creator    Dewhurst, Donna
Description: Black -capped chickadee perched on a branch
Location: Alaska
Publisher: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


No bird, except the wren, is more cheerful than the chickadee, and his cheerfulness, fortunately, is just as “catching” as measels. None will respond more promptly to your whistle in imitation of his three very high, clear call notes, and come nearer and nearer to make quite sure you are only a harmless mimic. He is very inquisitive. Although not a bird may be in sight when you first whistle his call, nine chances out of ten there will be a faint echo from some far distant throat before very long; and by repeating the notes at short intervals you will have, probably, not one but several echoes from as many different chickadees whose curiosity to see you soon gets the better of their appetites and brings them flying, by easy stages, to the tree above your head. Where there is one chickadee there are apt to be more in the neighbourhood; for these sociable, active, cheerful little black-capped fellows in gray like to hunt for their living in loose scattered flocks throughout the fall and winter. When they come near enough, notice the pale rusty wash on the sides of their under parts which are more truly dirty white than gray. Chickadees are wonderfully tame: except the chipping sparrow, perhaps the tamest birds that we have. Patient people, who know how to whistle up these friendly sprites, can sometimes draw them close enough to touch, and an elect few, who have the special gift of winning a wild bird’s confidence, can induce the chickadee to alight upon their hands.

Blessed with a thick coat of fat under his soft, fluffy gray feathers, a hardy constitution and a sunny disposition, what terrors has the winter for him? When the thermometer goes down,  his spirits seem to go up the higher. Dangling like a circus acrobat on the cone of some tall pine tree; standing on an outstretched twig, then turning over and hanging with his black-capped head downward from the high trapeze; carefully inspecting the rough bark on the twigs for a fat grub or a nest of insect eggs, he is constantly hunting for food and singing grace between bites. His day, day, day, sung softly over and over again, seems to be his equivalent for “Give us this day our daily bread.”

How delightfully he and his busy friends, who are always within call, punctuate the snow-muffled, mid-winter silence with their ringing calls of good cheer! The orchards where chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and kinglets have dined all winter, will contain few worm-eaten apples next season. Here is a puzzle for your arithmetic class: If one chickadee eats four hundred and forty-four eggs of the apple tree moth on Monday, three hundred and thirty-three eggs of the canker worm on Tuesday, and seven hundred and seventy-seven miscellaneous grubs, larvae, and insect eggs on Wednesday and Thursday, how long will it take a flock of twenty-two chickadees to rid an orchard of every-unspeakable pest? One very wise and thrifty fruit grower I know attracts to his trees all the winter birds from far and near, by keeping on several shelves nailed up in his orchard,  bits of suet, cheap raisins, raw peanuts chopped fine, cracked hickory nuts and rinds of pork. The free lunch counters are freely patronised. There is scarcely an hour in the day, no matter how cold, when some hungry feathered neighbour may not be seen helping himself to the heating, fattening food he needs to keep his blood warm.

At the approach of warm weather, chickadees retreat from public gaze to become temporary recluses in damp, deep woods or woodland swamps where insects are most plentiful. For a few months they give up their friendly flocking ways and live in pairs. Long journeys they do not undertake from the North when it is time to nest; but Southern birds move northward in the spring. Happily the chickadee may find a woodpecker’s vacant hole in some hollow tree; worse luck if a new excavation must be made in a decayed birch—the favourite nursery. Wool from the sheep pasture, felt from fern fronds, bits of bark, moss, hair, and the fur of “little beasts of field and wood”—anything soft that may be picked up goes to line the hollow cradle in the tree-trunk. How the crowded chickadee babies must swelter in their bed of fur and feathers tucked inside a close, stuffy hole! Is it not strange that such hardy parents should coddle their children so?




Birds Every Child Should Know by Neltje  Blanchan
Author of “Bird Neighbours,” “Birds that Hunt and Are Hunted,”
“Nature’s Garden,” and “How to Attract the Birds.”
1907 by Doubleday, Page & Company