Black-capped Chickadees are spritely, energetic birds, and with their sweet songs, bold personalities, and hearty appetite for insects, they’re always welcome visitors. But how do you get them to visit?
Learn how to attract these chickadees to your yard with tips to meet their needs and pique their curiosity.
What Black-Capped Chickadees Need
In order to effectively attract Black-capped Chickadees, you must meet their basic needs for food, water, shelter, and nesting sites. While these birds do have some specialized needs, they don’t tend to be too fussy about how those needs are met, and it’s easy to make your yard chickadee-friendly.
These small birds have big appetites. Insects are a key chickadee menu item, and they also sample berries and snack on seeds and nuts. To offer all these foods in your yard, minimize insecticide use so chickadees can enjoy the bug buffet. Plant native berry bushes for a sweet treat and add some sunflowers with big heads for these little birds to cling to as they pluck out the seeds. Planting oaks or hickory trees is a long-term goal to provide natural nuts, or you can offer whole peanuts or peanut hearts at feeders. Black-capped Chickadees will also readily visit feeders for whole or shelled sunflower seeds, raisins, and suet, and they will even snack on suet or peanut butter smeared directly on tree trunks for fast and easy access.
Clean, fresh water is essential for Black-capped Chickadees, who will visit water sources to drink and bathe. Since these are tiny birds, baths should be shallow to permit safe access or include a branch angled into the deeper basin to allow the birds to get closer to the water without difficulty. These birds also stay in their range year-round, which means a heated birdbath is a good idea to provide a liquid winter water source.
Shelter helps keep birds safe from predators and poor weather, and chickadees prefer to hide in dense, mature evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubby, thicket-like areas. Creating tiers of plantings in the yard can give Black-capped Chickadees comfortable shelter, but if plants aren’t quite big enough, a brush pile can be a good alternative. These birds will also take advantage of nesting pockets and roost boxes, especially in winter when they may spend the night cuddled together in small groups to share body warmth.
Black-capped Chickadees are cavity-nesting birds. Leaving old, hollow trees available for their nesting needs is a great way to attract chickadee families, and they will also reuse old woodpecker holes as their new residences. Small- or medium-sized birdhouses can also tempt chickadees to move in, so long as the entrance hole is roughly 1-1/8 inch in diameter. Adding some wood shavings inside the house can make it more attractive to these birds, and chickadees also love to use pet fur as nesting material. Just be sure the fur hasn’t been flea-treated, as dense concentrations of those chemicals are highly toxic for nesting birds.
Bonus Tips to Attract Black-Capped Chickadees
Even with the tastiest food, cleanest water, most comfortable shelter, and safest nesting sites, it might be a little while before Black-capped Chickadees become regular backyard guests. However, there are certain tricks that can invite them to visit sooner:
Catch Their Attention
These are curious and attentive birds, and they are very likely to investigate unusual sights or sounds. Splashing noises from a fountain or dripper can attract chickadees, or glittering yard accents such as a faceted bird feeder or crackled gazing ball will easily attract chickadees.
Pish with Passion
Black-capped Chickadees respond to pishing—those little kissy-smoochy noises or squeaks you can make to bring small birds closer for a better view. Try pishing when you are refilling bird feeders or cleaning bird baths, and you’ll be alerting chickadees that it is time to visit.
Create a Crowd
Chickadees are social birds, particularly in winter when they flock with kinglets, wrens, titmice, and nuthatches. Taking steps to attract these other birds to an overall bird-friendly yard will generate more activity that will make chickadees notice the new, popular hangout.
Say No to Bullying
While chickadees don’t mind flocks of small birds, larger birds such as sparrows, grackles, pigeons, and starlings can be intimidating and may keep them away. Take steps to discourage these backyard bullies so chickadees can feel more comfortable when they visit.See also: How to Stop Bully Birds from Raiding Your Feeders
Provide Lookout Perches
These birds are naturally wary and prefer a good place to watch for predators and competition. Providing perches will give them plenty of places to stick around. They will also use perches to feed as they snatch one seed or nut at a time and retreat to a safe space to crack it open.
Black-capped Chickadees are amazing guests, always entertaining with their acrobatic antics, crisp plumage, and larger-than-life attitudes. By meeting their needs and matching their personalities, you can easily attract these birds to your yard.
Remove Feeders Temporarily
The fastest way to mess up any habitat is to contaminate it with chemicals. While the effects of toxic pollutants such as oil spills are very obvious, less well known is the idea that all the chemicals we use on a daily basis have the potential to negatively impact habitats. Perfumes, dyes, soaps, cosmetics, and other chemicals all run into our water supplies. This can build up in rivers, lakes, wetlands, marshes, and oceans. Does your car have a slow leak? Antifreeze, motor oil, brake fluid, and other chemicals can wash off roadways and directly into habitats. Even after treatments to clean water, the chemical impact can remain in our environment. Reducing all the chemicals we use is a good step toward protecting bird and wildlife habitats.If you exhaust these measures, you may have no option than to remove your backyard bird feeders and birdhouses altogether. However, if a family has already moved into one of your birdhouses, experts advise against touching it at all. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be a permanent solution. Once the bird of prey realizes your yard is no longer a source of food, they will move on to other areas to hunt.
Don’t worry about losing your backyard visitors. Once you deem it safe to put your feeders and bird houses back out, the birds will return rather quickly. There is always a chance that the hawk will return, but it generally that takes some time. There’s always the chance they have found a more plentiful resource elsewhere.
For the backyard birdwatcher, it’s upsetting to find a tell-tale pile of feathers—evidence of a bird of prey’s success—at their feeders. There will always be the chance of birds coming under attack as they visit backyard feeders. Like migration, molting, and breeding, it’s another occurrence in the world of birds that birdwatchers will be witness to. It’s neither bad nor wrong.