Black-capped Chickadee female. Photo by Bet Zimmerman, 05/2010
I am having a Black-capped Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse explosion of nesting on my trails this year. It seemed like their numbers were down at feeders in the fall of 2009. Their populations were also hit hard several years ago by West Nile Virus. Maybe they are trying to recoup losses. Chickadees nests often fail when they are beat out by other cavity nesters. I am hearing lots of reports of 'dees and bluebirds duking it out over a box - the bluebirds will almost always win. If this happens to you, try putting up another nestbox nearby.
This female is using a Gilbertson PVC box. Chickadees seem to like them, maybe because of the shape (cylindrical) or maybe because they look like birch trees, which chickadees sometimes excavate since they tend to be soft when rotten. This box is in a Christmas tree field. She was not happy that I was checking her nest, and 'dee-dee-dee'd me" from this perch the entire time.
In my opinion, chickadee nests are among the most beautifully constructed. I really like the little fur plug or "blankie" they use to cover the eggs when they are away from the nest (probably to deter predation and keep temperatures stable.) They are very secretive when nesting and many monitors don't even realize there is activity in the box.
See more information about chickadee biology and nesting timetables, and more photos of nests, eggs and young.
You cannot begin to preserve any species of animal unless you preserve the habitat in which it dwells. Disturb or destroy that habitat and you will exterminate the species as surely as if you had shot it. So conservation means that you have to preserve forest and grassland, river and lake, even the sea itself. This is vital not only for the preservation of animal life generally, but for the future existence of man himself—a point that seems to escape many people.
-Gerald Durrell, The Nature Conservancy
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