04.18.21: Chickadee facing sun

A Black-capped Chickadee perches on a branch in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A Black-capped Chickadee perches on a branch in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A fun bird to watch and photograph

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Nov 25, 2017 9:44 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1000 second
  • ISO: 2000

Chickadee is such a funny word.

I remember as a very young kid running through the neighborhood with a bunch of other kids all repeating the line, “my little chickadee.” I guess someone in the group had seen W.C. Fields on TV. Fields first used the catchphrase in a 1932 movie, “If I Had A Million,” and later starred in a 1940 movie called “My Little Chickadee.” He often repeated the phrase.

The phrase “my little chickadee” was so much fun to say that it was a natural for little kids like us to adopt it for our own.

I doubt if anyone in the group had a clue what a chickadee was or if anyone in the group had even seen one. We were probably about four or five years old.

I’ve now seen— and photographed— plenty of chickadees. As funny as the name is (it is thought to have come from its call, which sounds somewhat like“chick-a-dee”), the birds are even more fun to watch.

They are always active in their search for food, often hanging upside down from leaves or tree limbs to access seeds, berries or insects. They are also very curious, investigating anything they find in their home area. I’ve had chickadees land on my camera lens to see what I’m doing. Their curiosity means that chickadees are often the first birds to discover new feeders in the area.

This is a photo of a Black-capped Chickadee facing the morning sun while waiting for a spot at a nearby feeder. 

I’m assuming this is a Black-capped Chickadee, the most common chickadee in Central Ohio, but I could be wrong. Central Ohio is in the overlap area for the southern border of the Black-capped Chickadee’s range and the northern edge of the range for the nearly identical Carolina Chickadee. Black-capped Chickadees have a bit more white wing-feather edging and shorter songs than the Carolina Chickadee, but it is very difficult to tell them apart.

When I looked up the differences between Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees on my favorite bird information site, All About Birds, I discovered some interesting facts about chickadees:

  • The Black-Capped Chickadee will hide seeds and other food items to eat later. Each item is placed in a different spot and the chickadee can remember thousands of hiding places.
  • Every autumn Black-capped Chickadees allow brain neurons containing old information to die, replacing them with new neurons so they can adapt to changes in their social flocks and environment even with their tiny brains.
  • Chickadee calls are complex and language-like, communicating information on identity and recognition of other flocks as well as predator alarms and contact calls. The more dee notes in a chickadee-dee-dee call, the higher the threat level.
  • Most birds that associate with chickadee flocks respond to chickadee alarm calls, even when their own species doesn’t have a similar alarm call.

I’m assuming this is a Black-capped Chickadee, the most common chickadee in Central Ohio, but I could be wrong. Central Ohio is in the overlap area for the southern border of the Black-capped Chickadee’s range and the northern edge of the range for the nearly identical Carolina Chickadee.