Thom Smith | NatureWatch: Why chickadees make the best tenants ...

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Q I recently discovered some chickadees spending a lot of time on and around the posts on my deck. When I went out to see what the attraction was I discovered a fairly large hole in one of the posts with a lot of the wood gouged out. I didn't see any insects in there, but I was astonished at how much of the wood was missing. I stuffed some steel wool in the larger hole and some other material in the second post they were also working on. The deck is old and the wood is a little soft in some post tops. After I stuffed the steel wool they were looking around that post trying to peck at it and then they were fluttering around the underside of my vinyl siding. Do you think they were looking for nesting material or eating insects in that deck post even though I didn't see any?

— Paul, Dalton



A I am sure that the chickadees are opening a cavity in which to nest. Nothing could be more fun than to have them as tenants (my opinion). There is not much discrimination in this species. Both male and female work together to excavate a cavity 8 or 9 inches deep. Some work for birds this small. They not only choose dead, decayed trees, fence posts, and now I can say deck posts. They are also apt to nest in bird houses, sometimes taking a bluebird house before the bluebirds do. Old woodpecker holes are also used.

It usually takes seven to 10 days to make the cavity, another three or four days to fabricate the nest, with egg laying taking up to just under two weeks, with both parents feeding the young. Young are fledged, and leave their parents in about 25 days. I would think it fun to have black-capped chickadees, our state bird, as tenants even if they are staying in a deck post. Just try not to annoy the birds.

Perhaps one of the best-known of our birds, even when you can't recall its name, because it will remind you with its chickadee-dee-dee call. In late winter through early spring the bird's two or three note song sounds like it is whistling fee-bee. The chickadee calls chickadee-dee-dee with additional dee-dee notes, increasing in number when alarmed. Most interesting though, its high-pitched alarm call when a predator approaches. When others hear this, they freeze until the chickadee call announces, "all clear." These acrobatic, social birds live in flocks and are rarely seen alone. They are tolerant of other bird species tagging along, and it is common to see them with downy woodpeckers, tufted titmice and white-and red-breasted nuthatches, especially at feeders offering black-oil sunflower seed.

Q I just read your article in the Sunday, May 6, Berkshire Eagle. Your next to last sentence in the article "Why do birds smack into windows?" about wild turkey is prompting my question. We live in Cheshire. In the middle of January, a wild turkey appeared in our back yard and he/she has been here or in our neighborhood ever since. We have an all glass storm door and he pecks at the window and at the cellar windows of our house and also at our neighbors. He annoys the children as they board the school bus. He also pecks at the lawn and leaves numerous "messes" all over. He has become the permanent neighborhood visitor. I've called numerous places and they tell me he is protected wild life and they can't help. Do you have any suggestions on how we can encourage him/her to move on back to his/her family where ever that may be?

— Nancy, Cheshire

A Not having a good answer, I sent your question along to Andrew Madden, Western District Supervisor for Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife,

88 Old Windsor Road, Dalton MA 01226. He responded with: " Hi Nancy — I suspect this is a young male bird. Male turkeys will challenge other birds to assert dominance over an area. In this case the bird is trying to dominate the people in the neighborhood. Typically, this results from feeding in and around houses at birdfeeders. As the turkey becomes more comfortable in that setting it will get bolder. The pecking at the window is likely a part of this. We encourage people to be assertive and scare the bold turkeys with noise, water or other deterrents. Usually, if the food is removed and the turkey has been adequately challenged it should move off or at least become less of a presence. If it continues feel free to let us know. Thanks."

READER COMMENTS

I read about the robin striking the window today. I am particularly concerned with bird/glass collisions. I would suggest that you Google The Convenience Group — Feather Friendly markers. DIY tape of little white dots every two inches horizontally can be applied at 4-inch intervals on the outside of windows. I prefer it to the large decals, which, by the way, do not cover enough of a window to be totally effective. These can be put on problem windows. I assume that they would break up a reflection so that a bird would not think that the reflection was an interloper.

— Ellen

I read your column in The Eagle, and I have a suggestion for Barbara and other readers with this problem. At my job, we had a male bird attacking an upstairs window (either a cardinal or a blue jay — this was years ago). I just took some plain paper, cut out a rough silhouette of a hawk, and taped it to the inside of the window. He stopped right away and didn't do it again. I don't think he believed it was a hawk, but rather just that it helped him see the glass — any random shape would probably work. Anyway, it's worth a try. It's quick and doesn't cost anything.

— Elizabeth, Sheffield


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