Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How a Chickadee Eats!

I've been trying for the last couple of months to photograph how a Black-capped Chickadee eats.  They cautiously approach the feeder, grab a seed, and dart back into the bush where they break open or mash up the seed into bite-sized pieces while clutching the seed with their feet.  Its fun watching their antics with binoculars, but I wanted to see what else I could learn from still photos.  Because they ensconce themselves into the thickest part of the bush for safety while eating, getting photos has been nearly impossible for me.  But finally this evening one little Chickadee granted me a small opening between branches for some photos in the setting sunlight.

Hungry, this Black-capped Chickadee has grabbed a seed that is a little more than a mouthful.  See how it has the seed pinched between its two feet?
By pecking and crushing the seed against the branch it is able to break off bite-sized pieces.  Look at that cute little pink tongue!  My eyes weren't fast enough to see that through binoculars.
Ever wary of predators, the Chickadee stops eating often to have a quick look around before taking another bite.
"Pardon me sir, you seem to have a bit of food on your lip," says I.
"I'm a bird you fool.  I haven't any plump fleshy lips like you land-bound bipeds."
"Do you like sea food?  Get it? SEE food!", he puerilely jokes as he munches on the remaining masticated portion of the seed.
And when it was all done eating, he licked his lips...I mean bill...then stuck out his tongue at me and said, "This $14 a box premium bird seed from Costco is pretty high quality stuff.  You don't mind if I help myself to another serving do you!"

After I took these photos, my two oldest kids and I tried to tempt this chickadee and his friends into eating from our hands.  One chickadee came within a foot of Anne's hand and seemed to be thinking really hard about it before giving up and taking the easy seed from the hanging platform feeder.  We'll have to keep trying to hand-feed them until they get used to us.


  1. Great post. I have started a new blog for just birds of Madison County.

    Are you available to go birding this spring with me?



  2. Really funny! :)
    My chickadees are so cute, they dive into the feeder nose first and then dart away with their seed.

  3. @Bill S. - I look forward to following your new blog! I hope to see you around Memorial Day long as family plans allow for it!

    @Kathy Detweiler - Thanks!

  4. This is a great series. At our summer home, high in the Sierra, the chickadees are quite happy to eat from human hands.

  5. A great series of photos and I like your commentary!

  6. Great post-beautiful photos! Chickadees have always been one my favorites.. Little birds with big personalities!

  7. great shots. And it is exactly how they behave. It is nice to see those shots.

  8. What a gorgeous series on the Black-capped Chickadee Robert! The detail in your photos is exceptional and I love the dialog too. I'm sure those cute kids of yours can get those birds to eat out of their hands. Let us know when that happens!

  9. Great shots Robert! I Love chickadees!

  10. I am new to bird-watching and I love my Chickadees. I was admiring your pictures as I have not been able to get any good shots. They move so fast!!
    My Nuthatches are snatch-and-go eaters, too; but the house finches just park themselves on the feeder!