Bird Watcher's General Store

Busy Feeding Babies - 07/06/01

Dear Bird Folks,

Has something happened to the chickadees? I'm worried about them. I have all of their favorite food in the feeders, yet they aren't coming around. What's wrong?

Paula, Barnstable

Hey, Hey Paula,

The chickadees are fine. Maybe it's your food or cooking that is keeping them away. Have you tried cutting back on the garlic? Chickadees are very self-conscious about their breath, you know. It's probably not your cooking that's the problem, it's the menu. Are you serving a steady supply of worms and insect larvae? No? What kind of hostess are you?

This time of year most birds, even feeder birds, feed their young insects. Insects help the baby birds grow much quicker than seeds do. Mom and dad know what's best, so they abandon the easy pickins of your bird feeder to hunt for worms and tiny caterpillars. When I say worms, I don't mean earth worms, that's the robin's gig. The little "inch" worms are what the chickadees love and they eat tons of them. Chickadees can make as many as 40 trips a day to their nest with worms. And that is 40 trips per bird. So if a chickadee has five babies, that's 200 worms a day that they must find. That leaves the adult birds little time to hang out and gossip at your feeder.

Soon the babies will be flying and the entire family will be back chowing at your feeder. Then you'll be asking us, "Why do I have so many darn chickadees at my feeder?" So don't worry, there is nothing wrong, it happens this way every year. However, as a benefit to the rest of us, you still might want to cut back on the garlic.

Artwork by Catherine Clark

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