My little chickadee friends

What with one thing and another, mostly another, I find that the post I had planned for this week is not quite up to snuff.

Meaning I haven’t started writing it yet.

Instead, I’m going to show you one of the little chickadees who’s been visiting my bird feeder:

chickadee 2

Yeah, I know, it’s a lousy photo. But hey, considering it was with my phone and he was on the other side of my window — which could do with a cleaning — it’ll have to do. At the very least, you can see what dapper little birdies they are and will now understand why I’m so smitten with them.

I’m told they can get quite tame around humans. A woman from church told me that every morning as she fills her bird feeder, several come along and sit on a fence just a few feet away from her, waiting. Which I find rather charming, don’t you?

Also, here’s a YouTube video of my backyard bird sounds (gosh I hope this works):

Did it work?

If it did, you should be able to hear a two-note call over and over again (along with some geese and robins and I think at one point some ducks). That call is from the chickadees’ repertoire. Birders call it “fee-bee” and I’m told it roughly translates to “hey, sweetie.” Or as I like to think of it, “how you doin’?”

It’s a call you hear primarily in Springtime, as they’re looking for a mate to settle down and have kids together.

Admittedly, when I first heard these two notes over and over and over again, it was driving me nuts. But then I found out it was just a little chickadee looking for love and my heart went out to them. I hope they find it.

Before I go, I want to show you something I found in my quest for chickadee info. This came from a site run by a Dr. Laurie Bloomfield, who studies songbirds:

Chickadees use both songs and calls to communicate with conspecifics, and possibly heterospecifics. Songs are typically regarded as more complex signals than calls, however with only one song type (fee bee), several calls produced by chickadees may in fact be considered more complex. The vocalization made for which the birds are named is the chick-a-dee call. This call contains four notes types (in black-capped chickadees): termed A, B, C and D notes. Although the note types are almost always found in order from A through D, the number of notes in a call may vary and individual calls may not contain all note types.  For example, a call may be as followed: AAACDDD. The chick-a-dee call shows that chickadees may have an extremely complex communication system. For this reason, research continues in an attempt to identify the information that the chick-a-dee call is able to convey to conspecifics (and possibly heterospecifics). Another type of call produced by most chickadee species is the gargle call, which is used during antagonistic encounters with conspecifics.  Chickadees are well studied compared to many other species of birds; however there is still a lot that can be learned about their complex communication system. Each call variant by the birds needs to be analyzed further to elucidate the potential “message” attempting to be conveyed.

I don’t know about you, but I find the fact there are people in this world studying songbirds and analyzing their calls very reassuring. Whatever crap might be going on in the world, whatever garbage you hear in the news, somewhere else in the world there is a person looking up a tree with a mighty fine pair of binoculars, jotting down notes and probably wearing cargo pants.

I mean, just the idea that someone would write a paragraph about chickadees that includes the words “conspecifics” and “heterospecifics” fills me with joy. I must pursue this further.

Which is why I signed up for a birding class this summer in Storm Lake, Iowa. It’s part of a week-long “synod school” Husband and I are attending in late July. They have both fun and serious classes, and since he couldn’t do the ballroom dance class with me, I opted for the one called “Robins, Raptors and Ducks: The Basics of Bird Watching.”

According to the course description, two class periods will be spent at different “Northwest Iowa Watchable Wildlife areas.” Also, it says I’m to bring a good pair of binoculars, so if you have any suggestions for me, I’d appreciate it.

five birders with equipment
I will soon look like one of these people. (Gah, I need to get a hat!)

Author: CJ Hartwell

After spending most of her life in Phoenix, Arizona, CJ Hartwell moved to the middle of Minnesota. Is she nuts? Probably. For updates on her sanity, click on the link to follow by email.

29 thoughts on “My little chickadee friends”

    1. No kidding? On your hands? That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day!
      They are cheerful, sweet little birds. I believe they’re considered quite ordinary around here, but I’m quite enraptured with them. 😍


  1. Good for you. Get out there and Jane-Hathaway your way to bird watching. (You’d best post a pic of you in the pith helmet, just sayin.)

    As for the backyard watching, we went through a phase where we had several feeders strategically placed about the property, and initially we greatly enjoyed the avian gatherings. But we have lots of massive trees, which translates into lots of aggressive squirrels, and feeding time eventually devolved into a battle between the birds and squirrels for ownership of the seed proffering. It was not pretty. We now have a lone hummingbird feeder, artfully placed in a strategic position that requires extreme dexterity for a squirrel to reach such. If he can make it to that thing, he deserves the ruby nectar….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried to do several different feeders in Phoenix and like you, for awhile there was an interesting array of feathered friends. Then the doves moved in. And yeah, I know they’re the symbol of love and peace and yada-yada-yada, but dang they’re messy birds and they totally dominated the feeders! Someone told me to take the feeder down for a few weeks then put it out again. That worked, but it was a hassle to keep putting it up, taking in down, putting it up, taking it down… ugh. Let them eat worms.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Your Chickadees look so cute and endearing so how can one but fall for them.
    Sunflower seeds are definitely one of the favourite for these small song birds,
    I use that too.
    The course you intend to go to sounds great, will find out if we have any such here.
    Further, I so want to quote one to me important paragraph:
    ” I mean, just the idea that someone would write a paragraph about chickadees that includes the words “conspecifics” and “heterospecifics” fills me with joy. ”

    All about getting the values right.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love listening to people deeply passionate about their hobbies or interests. In all seriousness, they make my heart sing!
      I’m in the market for more feeders, sunflower seeds are on the list too. 🙂


    1. Hey lady, I’ve always liked birds… OUTSIDE where they belong! Bring one indoors and stick it in my face? Nuh-uh, no way, I’m outta there! 😉
      But yeah, MN has been good for me. 🐦


  3. The chickadee was the first bird call I learned to recognize: my Mom taught me the chick-a-dee-dee-dee was telling us its name. I’m happy to say we have them out here too, although they’re rather skittish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve heard them calling out their name, but right now they mostly are calling out for love. I’m told they have another call that’s an alert, a high-pitched scree! that makes all the other chickadees freeze – it means a predator has been sighted. Haven’t heard it yet, but should be interesting to hear and then look for the hawk or eagle they spotted!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear fellow birder/procrastinator, I’m only slightly jealous. Where I am the owls, hawks and the dove kept me busy relocating and re-hanging the feeders – my first year here. And I was glad for the gypsy sunflowers that popped up wherever the were. Even so, I’m looking forward to moving all the feeders to the Camp Verde area in the not too distant future. Meanwhile I highly recommend a khaki hat & vest. They blend best 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your bird photo looks like a piece of art, don’t you think?
    I’m a backyard birder, mostly. If it ventures into my yard, or if I branch out into our neighbourhood, then that is pretty much the extent of my search for birds. However, that is far enough for me to start an entire blog about the birds and bugs I find! I call it “Chirps and Buzzes”.
    We have chickadees too. I think their call sounds like ‘here katie’. I didn’t even realize that was a chickadee call until an experienced birder pointed that out to me. I thought chickadees only said ‘chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee’!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The article I read claimed they had 16 different calls, and one was individualized so that they can easily identify each other. Of course, the idea that people actually study these kinds of things thrills me. Truly, birders are a fascinating lot. 😉


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