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Valley Wilds Article | Chickadee

May contain: animal, bird, finch, and beak

by Ranger Vickie Eggert

A typical winter sound in the park, the familiar "chick-a-dee-dee-dee," is a sure giveaway that a bird called a chickadee is nearby. The chickadee's common name comes from the sound of their call.

How can you spot a chickadee bird?

Although chickadee birds may be noisy, watching them in the treetops can sometimes be challenging. Usually heard before they are seen, these busy birds never sit still, especially when they see a camera or a pair of binoculars. They follow typical bird protocol and promptly fly out of lens sight as soon as they are seen. Lucky for those of us who want to watch them, they tend to be curious and will usually come back if you are quiet enough.

These little birds are constantly in motion, ducking and flitting through tree branches as they hunt down small insects. They will eat berries and seeds and are frequent visitors to backyard feeders like birdhouses, particularly during the fall and winter when there are not as many insects around. 

May contain: animal, bird, finch, beak, and wren

Types of Chickadee Birds

In the United States, there are seven different species of chickadee birds. All of them have dark caps and bibs. You'll find the chestnut-backed chickadee (Poecile rufescens) throughout the nation. These tiny birds are primarily gray with a white face mark and a distinctive black cap and bib. They also have brown coloration on their backs.

Although prominent in personality, they are relatively small in stature, reaching only 2.4 to 5.5 inches in height. 

Chickadee pairs will typically remain together year-round. From fall to early spring, these birds form flocks with other small birds such as titmice, nuthatches, warblers, and kinglets, all of which can be found here in Sycamore Grove Park. 

Where you might find them at Sycamore Grove

They lay 5 to 8 eggs per clutch, nesting in a hollow tree like a sycamore. If you want to help chickadees in the winter, setting up a nest box can help provide additional habitat for these cavity-nesting birds. Chickadees can use an internal tool called nocturnal hypothermia during the winter. Nocturnal hypothermia is when the bird can lower its body temperature at night to conserve energy to survive the cold weather.  

As they are found year-round in Sycamore Grove Park, listen closely for the familiar 'chick-a-dee' call and look for these small birds with big personalities.