[wpvideo dw4A8hYw]

If you have a bird feeder at home you likely have Chickadees visiting regularly.  At Wrigley Corners we also feed these birds by hand!  Though Chickadee’s do occasionally have little squabbles I find them to be relatively tame visitors, certainly compared to the various finches they are down-right polite.

Chickadees form non-breeding flocks in the winter time, of typically 3-14 individuals.  Winter flocks have lots of benefits like better foraging potential and more eyes watching for predators.  A flock will often visit a feeder together and, if perches are restricted, take turns collecting seed.  They seldom stick around to eat but take the food away to either stash or consume in peace (how civil!).

Jeff in the Hand-fall-2013

The order they visit your feeder matters.  There is a firm hierarchy, where each Chickadee has it’s place, either above one of it’s flock mates and often also below another.  If a Chickadee approaches the feeder out of turn it will be reprimanded by a higher ranking bird.  Obviously higher ranked birds get more food and first choice.  At Wrigley’s and at the Dickson I color band the Chickadee so that we can identify individuals.  If you watch long enough you can determine who is in charge and who is stuck waiting it’s turn, eventually piecing together the entire hierarchy. 

In the video you can clearly see one Chickadee waiting for another before taking it’s turn.  Classes that visit Wrigley Corners help with an observational study of Chickadee behaviour like this.  There are other important behaviors to observe, which I will have to post about another time… stay tuned.

To get hierarchical data you need to be able to identify both birds.  In the field you get one chance to make your observation and Chickadees move fast!  While watching the video did you see the leg bands for both birds?  If so, put the band combinations into a comment (right leg first, top to bottom and then left leg).  In a day or two I will post who both birds are.

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