Tag Archives: Black-capped Chickadee

Project 366 – Post No. 278 – The Year of the Chickadee

What is Project 366? Read more here.

Birders always look forward to the first bird of the year. In his Birding Without Border book Noah Strycker describes the first bird of the year as:

On New Year’s Day, superstitious birder-watchers like to say, the very first bird you see is an omen for the future. This is a twist on the traditional Chinese zodiac – which assign each year to an animal, like the Year of the Dragon, or Rat – and it’s amazingly reliable. One year I woke up on January 1, glanced outside, and saw a Black-capped Chickadee, a nice, friendly creature everybody likes. That was a fantastic year. The next New Year, my first bird was a European Starling, a despised North American invader that poops on parked cars and habitually kills bluebirds just because it can. Compared to the Year of the Chickadee, The Year of the Starling was pretty much a write-off.

Fortunately in these neck of the woods we do not get many European Starlings. Ironically the only place where I have seen starlings in Alberta was where I was least expecting to find them, at Elk Island National Park. We do, however, have a lot of Black-capped Chickadees and as it turns out my first bird of 2020 was indeed a Black-capped Chickadee. So while this did not come as a surprise, I am quite content with this well-deserving bird getting the honor of being the first bird of the year and of the decade. I did not take a picture of the chickadees (sorry chickadees)…, after all I see them everyday and everywhere, specially in the winter. Things get better, however. The second bird I saw this year was a flock of Common Ravens. The name “common” really does not make justice to these intelligent and magnificent birds. This was the first picture of a bird of 2020. I would say that a Black-capped Chickadee followed by ravens is a very good omen indeed, if you believe in such things. Things get even more better(er). The third bird of the year was…, drum roll please…, a Bald Eagle! Yes you read that right. I spotted the mythical Whitemud Creek Bald Eagle on my morning walk today. As I came out of the forest, there it was soaring over the tree tops like it was no big deal. Well, it is a big deal. Everyone who has spend some time with the birds down at the Whitemud Creek has hear about The Bald Eagle, but few people has seen it. This was the second time that I spotted it. The first time was a fraction of a second glance of it as it flashed between the tree tops, majestic and serene, yet elusive and mythical. On this windy cold winter day I came across it again. It was soaring high above the creek and was unmistakable. This was the third species of the year and the second species I photographed. A Black-capped Chickadee, followed by a Common Raven and then a Bald Eagle undoubtedly must be a very very good omen indeed, if you believe in such things. It was an exciting morning and my only conundrum is what to call the year. Technically it should be The Year of the Chickadee, but one could also make a case for calling it The Year of the Raven or even The Year of the Bald Eagle (at least photographically speaking). I will, however, to be fair to the chickadees, call it The Year of the Chickadee, which I think holds promise of great things to come in the next 12 months. Long live the chickadee, and the raven and the Bald Eagle!

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 231 – Snacktime

What is Project 366? Read more here.

At this time of the year there seems to only be one single thing on the mind of the Black-capped Chickadees…, food. They seem to spend all their time looking for food and feeding and clearly view us humans as a source of food. A 1992 study estimated that chickadees, and similar small birds, need about 10 kcal per day to survive. Chickadees consume a wide range of food stuffs, including insects and seeds. One of their favorite treats, particularly this time of year, are sunflower seeds. According to my calculation a single hulled sunflower seed has on average 0.29 kcal (100 grams of sunflower seeds has 585 kcal, which corresponds to approximately 2000 hulled seeds…, the rest is math). This little fella was thoroughly enjoying his snack and in the pan of a few minutes came by about 10 times to pickup another seed. That means he got about a third of its daily energy intake from the snack we brought. Here is more food for though. An adult chickadee weights about 10 grams and this adult birder weights about 8000 times more. If I would have the same daily per gram energy requirements as the chickadee my total daily energy requirement would be 80000 kcal, about 30 times what it actually is. I would get all my energy from sunflower seeds I would have to consume almost 14 kg of hulled sunflower seeds every day. There is some food for thought. Fortunately metabolic rates in warm-blooded animals does not scale linearly, but that is a different story.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 225 – Black-capped Chickadee demanding an offering

What is Project 366? Read more here!

Chickadees might be tiny but they sure know what they want and make sure you know what it is. They regularly follow one along as you go for walks in the forest. They flutter around, chirp and it is pretty clear that they are hoping for a treat. They might be common and in your face, but they are que painful difficult to photograph as they never seem to sit still. They are always moving and on the go. This fella sat still long enough for me to quickly take a picture, but before I knew what had happened it was off and on to a different branch.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 220 – A flash of a Boreal Chickadee

What is Project 366? Read more here!

As I was saying in yesterday’s post, the chickadees at the Grey Nuns Spruce Woodlot were out in full force. Accosting us as soon as we arrived. If you stretched out your hand, a chickadee would immediately land on it and start to look for treats, pecking your fingers with its tiny bill. As soon as it realized that there were no treats to be had it would take off, only to immediately be replace by another one. It was a whirlwind of chickadees and, as usual, I identified them all as Black-capped Chickadees.., that was, until I was going through the pictures the next day. I realized that one of the chickadees did not look like the others. Instead of a black capped head it had a brown head with more brown throughout its body. In the freeze frame picture it is easy to see (if you pay attention) that this is a Boreal Chickadee. Boreal Chickadees are typically solidly outnumbered by the Black-capped Chickadees and I a rarely lucky enough to spot one. This is the first picture I have taken of a Boreal Chickadee. It’s a bit ironic that I did not realize what I had taken a picture of until the next day.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 219 – Feed us please

What is Project 366? Read more here!

We went to the Grey Nuns Spruce Woodlot today. This patch of forest is a remnant of a much larger forest that existed at the time of settlement of the St. Albert area over 170 years ago. It is an old-growth forest that is squeezed in between the busy Ray Gibbon Drive, the Joy Centre and sprawling sub-division developments. The forest is just over 40 hectares in size and contains a diversity of tree covered, shrub and grassland areas. Among birders the area is perhaps best known for its large number of Snowy Owls during the winter. It was here that I spotted my first Snowy Owl last winter. During our visit today we went on the narrow trails winding through the forest. As soon as we arrived we were accosted by a band of energetic and chubby Black-capped Chickadees that required us to appease them with food. They simply did not take a no for an answer and continued to follow us through the forest. I suspect that they probably are used to being fed by humans, which was further corroborated when we came across an old dilapidated feeder hanging just off the trail where the chickadees had spray-pained “FEED US PLEASE”. We did not bring any food for the feathered denizens of the forest this time, but clearly next time we will have to make up for this.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 212 – First “snow storm”

What is Project 366? Read more here!

It was a dull grey and windy afternoon. The thermometer read -2C, but with the wind chill it was more like -9C. It was certainly not ideal weather for birding, but I decided to brave the elements and head down to the Whitemud Creek. It had not been there for several weeks so you never know what you find after such a hiatus. By the time I go to the creek the snow had started to fall and it was swirling around in the wind. I would say that this qualified as the first “snow storm: of the season, but compared to what is to come it was pretty tame…, like a warm up to the real deal. I tried to capture the “storm” in a picture, but it turned out very anticlimactic and line would have to squint pretty hard to imagine any snow falling just by looking at the picture. While snow and sub-zero temperatures in October may sound extreme to non-Albertan’s, we are actually doing pretty good this season. Last year we had our first snow in September and quite often the end of October is already locked down in deep freeze in these neck of the woods. Other than the snow and some unusual beaver activity, as I predicted, most birds were in hiding. The notable exception, as always, were the Black-capped Chickadees that were our in full force and did not seem to mind the weather at all.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 142 – The Chickadees of Fee-bee

What is Project 366? Read more here!

[Walking softly through the forest]
BIRD: Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee!
HUMAN: Who are you?
BIRD: We are the Chickadees that say... Fee-bee!
HUMAN: No! Not the Chickadees that say Fee-bee!
BIRD: The same!
HUMAN: Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale!
BIRD: The Chickadees Who Say Fee-bee demand a sacrifice!
HUMAN: Chickadees of Fee-bee, I am but a simple birder who seek the enchanter who lives beyond these woods.
BIRD: Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee!
HUMAN: Oh, ow!
BIRD: We shall say 'Fee-bee' again to you if you do not appease us.
HUMAN: Well, what is it you want?
BIRD: We want... sunflower seeds!

Black-capped Chickadees have a remarkably complex and varied repertoire of vocalizations, but perhaps the most common song carrying through the forest is their characteristic fee-bee (aka as ‘Hey, sweetie’). You can listen to recordings of their vocalizations here. As I was making my way along the Whitemud Ravine trail the Black-capped Chickadees came out in full force confronting me. The exchange that followed was remarkably reminiscent of the exchange King Arthur has with the Nights of Ni in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. In case you are not familiar with this scene you can enjoy it in all its glory right here. This band of Chickadees meant business. A dozen chickadees quickly surrounded me, perching in the shrubbery and on the ground around my feet and said ‘fee-bee, fee-bee, fee-bee’. One of them landed on my leg. Another one went straight for my outstretched hand. When it realized that I had not brought an offering I received a condescending look of disbelieve and indignation. I had no other choice than continue walking with a dozen chickadees tagging along fee-bee’ing me incessantly.

The Black-capped Chickadees of Fee-bee demanding an offering at Whitemud Creek. August 18, 2019. Photo using iPhone.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.