The Chestnut Backed
Chickadee is a frequent visitor to our feeders on Vancouver Island and are a joy to interact with.
They sometimes look comical when they land on a branch close to you and turn
their heads almost upside down all the while calling with the cheep cheep cheep
They are very friendly
and quite beautiful when observed up close. I have had them
land on my shoulders
as l fill their feeders, cheeping at me loudly, as if to tell me to hurry it up.
chestnut backed chickadee is a small energetic bird with a chestnut brown back,
rump, and flanks. They have white cheeks, a black throat, and gray wings and
tails. Their chest and bellies are all white. They have short bills and their
average length is 10 cm. Male, female and juvenile chestnut-backed chickadees
all share the same plumage.
Chestnut backed chickadees build their nests in woodpecker holes or excavate
their own cavities in soft rotten wood. They are also known to nest in man made
nest boxes. The nests are built using moss, lichen, fine grass, feathers, and
plant fiber, and are lined using soft hair and fur. The nests are usually placed
low and do not exceed 2.5 meters above ground. The female chickadee lays 5 to 7
eggs usually white eggs. Some eggs although white, are speckled. Both male and
female chickadees tend to
their young while nesting.
Little is known about the mating habits of chestnut backed chickadees.
So far there is no information available regarding their mating behavior
or pattern for pair formation. What is known is that chestnut backed
chickadees become territorial during breeding season but otherwise
freely join mixed species flocks, especially in winter. Breeding season
starts around mid March to early April.
Chestnut back chickadees get their food by foraging. They hop along tree
branches and pick the surfaces and probe crevices in order to find food.
They are often seen hanging upside down from tree branches in order to
get to the food found on the branches’ underside. They like to forage in
conifers and even eat conifer seeds. The main diet of chestnut backed
chickadees is composed mainly of insects and spiders. They also like to
eat berries and conifer seeds, as mentioned earlier. They also seem to
like the suet and birdseed found in bird feeders. They store food in the
fall, which the retrieve and use during winter.
This spring, l observed them hanging upside down on Salmonberry flowers,
licking up the nectar.
Although chestnut backed chickadees are non migratory they sometimes fly
short distances in winter when their food supply gets low. They usually
move to lower elevations in the same area when winter starts and move
back up to higher elevations in late summer.
Chestnut backed chickadees use lots of fur and hair to make their nests.
Their nests are actually 50% fur and hair. The most common hair they use
comes from deer, rabbits, and coyotes. The adult chickadees also make a
layer of fur about a centimeter thick which is used to cover the eggs on
the nest whenever they leave the nest. When we brush our dogs in the
spring, we place the hair in areas where Chickadees and other birds can
gather it to use for nesting material.