The black-capped chickadee is one of our favorite feeder birds—they’re bold, active little feather balls that aren’t shy about sharing their yard with you. Chickadees are often the first birds to explore a new feeder and show the other birds how it’s done. Their territorial “fee-bee” call can make you smile, as it is a welcome sound of the emerging spring. Their characteristic bouncing flight seems to reflect their light-hearted nature; sort of like the bird equivalent of skipping down the sidewalk.
Why chickadees dine and dash with their constant flying in and out, you may think that your chickadees aren’t too fond of your feeder, but don’t be alarmed. These little guys don’t have as strong a cracking action in their tiny beaks as most other feeder birds. They will ferry the seed to a safe spot and either hold it with a foot or wedge it in a crevice and proceed to hammer it open.
Chickadees will sometimes spend more time on a feeder if there are medium or fine sunflower chips or hearts around. You will also see them visiting feeders stocked with Nyjer or Nyjer and Chips. One of our favorite mixes for chickadees is Songbird Delight—lots of medium chips and black-oilers, with peanuts and safflower for good measure.
Chickadees will readily use nest boxes and are not particularly fussy as to the style or shape of the house. The size of the hole is important, however. A 11/8″ diameter opening is perfect for chickadees. They will use boxes with holes up to 11/4″ but that larger size tempts house sparrows to take over the box. Nest boxes should be in place by late March or early April so all of your birds can become familiar with them. Your chickadees also appreciate a ball of Best Nest Builder nesting material, as their nest building is part of the courtship ritual.