With its black bill, cap, and bib contrasting with bright white cheeks and gray back, wings, and tail, the Black-capped Chickadee is a welcome sight at any feeder. This animated and vocal sprite spends much of its life in arboreal habitat (trees and shrubs). It forages and nests in deciduous and mixed deciduous/coniferous woodlands, parks, and suburban yards.
A common and regular visitor to backyard feeders, chickadees love mixes containing lots of sunflower and nutmeats. These seeds are very similar to their natural forage: items like the seeds of hemlocks and basswood, goldenrod and ragweed. Other natural foods include berries such as those of honeysuckle and bayberry as well as a wide variety of insects.
These tiny acrobats forage for food in trees and shrubs. A tree branch is the ideal location for a ball or globe style feeder filled with Aspen Song® Chickadee mix. Chickadees join mixed-specie foraging flocks in the winter months. Other species they associate with include nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, and creepers. Many of these birds react readily to the alarm vocalizations of chickadees. We might call the Black-capped Chickadee the sentry for the group as they move from location to location seeking food sources.
Chickadees cache food in the autumn in various storage locations like tree bark seams and knotholes. The birds are able to remember where these food stores are located and caches may be an important factor in winter survival. Chickadees have a fascinating method of dealing with cold winter nights. They are able to enter a state of torpor, dropping their body metabolism, to reduce energy expenditure until they can return to feeding the next morning.
Black-capped Chickadees nest in cavities. They will use naturally occurring holes in decaying trees, old woodpecker holes, and nest boxes. The male and female share the task of preparing the cavity, but the female builds the nest. If you open a nestbox when no one is home and see moss lining the cup-shaped depression – you have chickadees! Once eggs have hatched a peek in the box may show six or eight youngsters. If you would like to try attracting chickadees to nest on your property, locate the box along the edge or a brushy woodlot.
Reference: Smith, Susan M. 1993. Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.