The Black-capped Chickadee is one of our most common and popular backyard birds. These small, plump, black and white birds have short bills that are used like hammers to peck open seeds as large as sunflower seeds and reveal the inner kernel. The Black-capped Chickadee is named for one of its most identifiable features, its black head feathers which extend from its bill to the back of its head, giving it the appearance of wearing a black cap. This contrasts sharply with the white cheeks, whitish underparts and buff sides. The only other species of chickadee that you can see in Nova Scotia is the Boreal Chickadee which has a brown cap, black bib, and rich brown sides.
Boreal Chickadees spend most of their time in coniferous forests but will occasionally visit back yards during harsh winters, to eat suet. Black-capped Chickadees prefer living in mixed or deciduous woodlands and urban areas. The Black-capped Chickadee's call is frequently heard and can easily be identified as it sounds as if it is saying its name, "chick-a-dee-dee-dee".
Black-capped Chickadees are known for their ability to find food. This, combined with their amicable personality is probably why other species can often be found travelling with them. Always look closely at any flock of chickadees visiting your property, you may spot a Brown Creeper, Downy Woodpecker, or Golden-crowned Kinglet.
You will notice that the chickadees will usually appear one at a time at your feeder, take a seed, then leave. This is because each flock has a hierarchy - an order in which each bird takes its turn. If a chickadee arrives at a feeder out of turn, watch for a brief squabble to break out. With a bit of patience, these friendly, good-natured birds can be taught to take sunflower seeds directly from your hand. It can be a truly special feeling when a bird this small places that amount of trust in you. If you don't believe me, check out these photos!