Tag Archive: back yard

Black Capped Chickadees

So i got some chickadees the last couple years… I previously had an entry entitled carolina Chickadees, but i thin k what i have been seeing are black caps… at least using their vocalizations to differentiate between the two.
some of these pics came from my porch, others from my back yard after i moved all my feeders over there last season. What i notice to be most difficult about these guys right now is that, i am using primarily a platform feeder, and they like to light for a second, like literally one second, and get a seed, and then LEAVE to eat it in a tree. So thats been a photographic challenge. however, i feel i met it well today, keeping the lens aimed at the corner of the platform most near to the tree they jut flew into, and half depressing the button, to focus on the empty space, and just waiting. it paid off today i think. i got the little buggers. 🙂
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Info from WIKI
The Black-capped Chickadee has a black cap and bib with white sides to the face. Its underparts are white with rusty brown on the flanks. Its back is gray and the tail is normally slate-gray. This bird has a short dark bill of 8–9.5 mm (0.31–0.37 in), short rounded wings 63.5–67.5 mm (2.50–2.66 in), a tarsus of 16–17 mm (0.63–0.67 in) and a long tail at 58–63 mm (2.3–2.5 in).[4] Total body length is 12–15 cm (4.7–5.9 in), wingspan is 16–21 cm (6.3–8.3 in) and body mass is 9–14 g (0.32–0.49 oz).[5] Sexes look alike, but males are slightly larger and longer than females.

Although range can generally be used to separate them, the Black-capped Chickadee is very similar in appearance to the Carolina Chickadee. The Black-capped is larger on average but this cannot be used reliably for identification. The most obvious difference between the two is in the wing feathers. In the Black-capped Chickadee, the wing feathers have white edges that are larger and more conspicuous than those of the Carolina Chickadee. The latter is often mistaken for Black-capped Chickadees with feather dystrophy which sometimes affects the appearance of the primary feathers making them look slimmer, a phenomenon caused by illnesses such as fatty liver disease in malnourished birds. Overall, the Carolina appears slightly paler colored whereas the flanks of the Black-capped can appear to have a trace of off-yellow or rusty coloration. Also, the Black-capped generally has a more “ragged” looking black bib, whereas the bib of the Carolina has a more smooth-edged look. These subtle features are often even more vague in populations around where the Black-capped and Carolina overlap in range (possibly the result of hybrids) and the two cannot always be distinguished as two species. The two species were formerly thought to be easily distinguished by call, but they often learn each other’s vocalizations where their ranges overlap (their point of overlap is a narrow band that runs along the east-central United States, with the Black-capped Chickadee to the north). A bird located near the zone of overlap that sings both songs, or sings “odd-sounding” songs, cannot be positively identified solely by voice in the field.[6]

Distribution and habitat

The black-capped chickadee is found from coast to coast, from the northern half of the United States in the south, to James Bay, the southern edge of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, and the southern half of Alaska in the north. In winter it may wander outside this range, both to the north and south.

Its preferred habitat is deciduous woods or mixed (deciduous/coniferous) woods. It is also found in open woods, parks, and suburban areas. Habitat segregation is the principal factor that separates the Black-capped Chickadee from both the Boreal Chickadee in the north and the Chestnut-backed Chickadee in the Pacific northwest (these two species prefer strictly coniferous forests). Altitude also separates the Black-capped Chickadee from the (higher) Mountain Chickadee in the western mountains and the (lower) Carolina Chickadee in the Great Smokey Mountains.

Diet and foraging

Chickadees will take food such as seeds from feeders and trays over to a tree branch to hammer them open.

Insects (especially caterpillars) form a large part of their diet in summer. The birds hop along tree branches searching for food, sometimes hanging upside down or hovering; they may make short flights to catch insects in the air. Seeds and berries become more important in winter, though insect eggs and pupae remain on the menu. Black oil sunflower seeds are readily taken from bird feeders. The birds take a seed in their bill and commonly fly from the feeder to a tree, where they proceed to hammer the seed on a branch to open it.

Like many other species in the Paridae family, Black-capped chickadees commonly cache food, mostly seeds but sometimes insects also.[7] Items are stored singly in various sites such as bark, dead leaves, clusters of conifer needles, or knotholes. Memory for the location of caches can last up to 28 days.[8] Within the first 24 hours, the birds can even remember the relative quality of the stored items.[9]

At bird feeders, Black-capped Chickadees tolerate human approach to a much greater degree than do other species. In fact, during the winter, many individuals accustomed to human habitation will readily accept seed from a person’s hand.


On cold winter nights, these birds reduce their body temperature by as much as 10-12 °C (18-22 °F) (from their normal temperature of about 42 °C (108 °F)) to conserve energy.[10][11] Such a capacity for torpor is rare in birds (or at least, rarely studied). Other bird species capable of torpor include the Common Swift Apus apus, the Common Poor-will Phalaenoptilus nuttallii, the Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis, and various species of hummingbirds.


These birds are permanent residents, but sometimes they move south within their range, and even outside of it, in the fall or winter.

During the fall migration and in winter, chickadees often flock together. Many other species of birds – including titmice, nuthatches, and warblers – can often be found foraging in these flocks. Mixed flocks stay together because the chickadees call out whenever they find a good source of food. This calling-out forms cohesion for the group, allowing the other birds to find food more efficiently. When flocking, Black-capped Chickadees soon establish a rigid social hierarchy. In such hierarchies, males usually rank over females, and older birds over juveniles.

Body maintenance

Black-capped Chickadees sleep in thick vegetation or in cavities, usually singly, though there have been suggestions that they may occasionally roost clumped together.[12] The sleeping posture is with the bill tucked under the scapular (shoulder) feathers.

This bird scratches its head with its foot over the wing. It can bathe in water, dew, or snow; young chickadees have been observed dust-bathing.


Their flight is slightly undulating with rapid wing beats. Flight speed is about 20 km/h (12 mph).[13]


The vocalizations of the Black-capped Chickadee are highly complex.[14] Thirteen distinct types of vocalizations have been classified, many of which are complex and can communicate different types of information. Chickadees’ complex vocalizations are likely an evolutionary adaptation to their habitat: they live and feed in dense vegetation, and even when the flock is close together, individual birds tend to be out of each other’s visual range.

The song of the Black-capped is a simple, clear whistle of two notes, identical in rhythm, the first roughly a whole-step above the second.[15] This is distinguished from the Carolina chickadee’s four-note call fee-bee fee-bay; the lower notes are nearly identical but the higher fee notes are omitted, making the Black-capped song like bee bay.

Some ‘gargles’, then a minute of singing.

NOTE: American Robin singing in background.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The males sing the song only in relative isolation from other chickadees (including their mates). In late summer, some young birds will sing only a single note. Both sexes sometimes make a faint version of the song, and this appears to be used when feeding young.

The most familiar call is the chick-a-dee-dee-dee which gave this bird its name. This simple-sounding call is astonishingly complex. It has been observed to consist of up to four distinct units which can be arranged in different patterns to communicate information about threats from predators and coordination of group movement. Recent study of the call shows that the number of dees indicates the level of threat from nearby predators. In an analysis of over 5,000 alarm calls from chickadees, it was found that alarm calls triggered by small, dangerous raptors had a shorter interval between chick and dee and tended to have extra dees, usually averaging four instead of two. In one case, a warning call about a pygmy owl – a prime threat to chickadees – contained 23 dees.[16] The Carolina Chickadee makes a similar call which is faster and higher-pitched.

There are a number of other calls and sounds that these Chickadees make, such as a gargle noise usually used by males to indicate a threat of attacking another male, often when feeding. This call is also used in sexual contexts. This noise is among the most complex of the calls, containing 2 to 9 of 14 distinct notes in one population that was studied.


The Black-capped Chickadee nests in a hole in a tree, 1–7 m (3.3–23 ft) above ground. The pair either excavate the hole together, or use a natural cavity, or sometimes an old woodpecker nest. This species will also nest in a nesting box. The nesting season is from late April through June. The nest is built by the female only. It consists of a base of coarse material such as moss or bark strips, and lining of finer material such as mammal hair. Eggs are white with fine dots of reddish brown concentrated at the larger end. On average, eggs are 1.52 × 1.22 cm (0.60 × 0.48 in). Clutch size is 6–8 eggs. Incubation lasts 11–14 days and is by the female only, who is fed by the male. If there is an unusual disturbance at the nest entrance, the incubating female may utter an explosive hiss, like that of a snake, a probable adaptation to discourage nest predators.[17]

Hatchlings are altricial, naked with their eyes closed. Nestlings are fed by both sexes but are brooded by the female only (at which time the male brings food to her, which she passes on to the young). Young leave the nest 12–16 days post-hatching, in great part because the parents start presenting food only outside the nest hole. The young will still be fed by the parents for several weeks but are capable of catching food on their own within a week after leaving the nest.

Black-capped Chickadees usually breed only once a year, but second broods are possible if the first one is lost. First breeding is at one year of age. Maximum recorded lifespan is twelve years, but most individuals live only half that long.[18]

Black-capped Chickadees may interbreed with Carolina Chickadees or Mountain Chickadees where their ranges overlap. It appears to be more rare, but interbreeding with Boreal Chickadees has also been documented.[19]


In the states of Alaska and Washington, and in parts of western Canada, Black-capped Chickadees are among a number of bird species affected by an unknown agent that is causing beak deformities which may cause stress for affected species by inhibiting feeding ability, mating, and grooming. Black-capped Chickadees were the first affected bird species, with reports of the deformity beginning in Alaska in the late 1990s, but more recently the deformity has been observed in close to 30 bird species in the affected areas.[20]


Birding – A Poem

Eyes open in the morning.

What time is it?

8 AM.

Peep out the window, on the way to wee.

Grackles. Starlings. Cowbirds. Red Wing Blackbird.

Have a smoke and a vape, make some tea.

And it begins.

The endless standing. Waiting.

Slow movements inside the kitchen,

Peeping out the window, peeping out the window.

The only tiny window which affords the best look.

Right in front of the kitchen sink.

Camera on a tripod,

aimed at a platform feeder.

A downy woodpecker comes, goes,

fearless when the cowbirds whoosh away,

for the presence of a squirrel.

A cardinal lands on the platform,

preening in the morning sun.

Click click click,

captured forever, he flies away.

Eyes straining into the high branches,

between the buds of spring, and tiny leaves…

Is it a sparrow up there,

or a titmouse?

That darn titmouse….

So cute, but so jumpy,

refusing endlessly to be captured.

I admire his restlessness.

But have relinquished my own,

in place of patience, and slow movements.


Where once there was only sleeping late, and wild nights,

parties, friends, jobs, pressure…

there is freedom now, peace.

Time, to learn patience.

The art of waiting.

I wait like a stone.


Then, suddenly….

a large bird, walking about on the ground.

A gigantic yellow head,

plump body dwarfing all the cowbirds,

even the grackles.

What could this be?

This big bird i have never in life, seen before?

in art, or with my own eyes?

Glorious! Foreign! Exotic!

Snappity snap i fire away,

but there is blur for all my excitement.

Then he himself is a blur, and is gone.

Heart racing, hands shaking,

I am sad for his departure,

but so grateful for the chance to have seen him at all.


Sore legs from hours of standing.

head aflight with images of a yellow headed vision.


A rare bird, in my tiny backyard.

Yellow Headed Blackbird.

My finest Ornitholigical hour.


In the morning, 8 AM

Talking to my fiancee, in the shed.

Up there, in the high branches of the tree.

What is that?


It is his golden gloriousness.

Returned to me.

I snap only two pictures, in perfection.

It is done.

He is mine.


And back to the window i go…

Awaiting the next strange trill, or colored head…

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American Blue Jay


Summer, 2012

Jugtown Mountain Campground


Summer 2013


I had a surprisingly difficult time getting these jays to cooperate. I found them entirely evasive. But oh when one landed somewhere where i could maybe get a shot of him…. how my heart leapt. 🙂 I wish i saw them in my yard more often


Crows and Jays
Crows and Jays
  • Size & Shape

    Large crested songbird with broad, rounded tail. Blue Jays are smaller than crows, larger than robins.

  • Color Pattern

    White or light gray underneath, various shades of blue, black, and white above.

  • Behavior

    Blue Jays make a large variety of calls that carry long distances. Most calls produced while the jay is perched within a tree. Usually flies across open areas silently, especially during migration. Stuffs food items in throat pouch to cache elsewhere; when eating, holds a seed or nut in feet and pecks it open.

  • Habitat

    Blue Jays are birds of forest edges. A favorite food is acorns, and they are often found near oaks, in forests, woodlots, towns, cities, parks

  • Voice:

Cool video:


Rare Yellow Headed Blackbird, in New Jersey.

Hello. My name is Kim, and i am a birder from NJ.

I started my journey into birding last spring, because i thought it would be great practice for my photography skills, to photograph birds. I was definitely right about that. Birding had provided me ample amounts of time to get to know my way around my new camera.

I had used a point and shoot variety camera, for the first two cameras i owned. It was the Kodak Easyshare C913. it cost me about a hundred dollars, even, for all the crap i needed. i had a silver one and a pink one, the latter of which i lovingly handed down to a good friend of mine. I would recommend them to anyone getting started. Lots of different presets, but nothing fancy or confusing like setting your own exposure lengths.

Honestly, im still clueless, about textbook photography, but i can work that camera that i have now, a two and a half year old Nikon P100, pretty well. And the shots i have gotten of EVERYTHING have been amazing. but naturally, in having a camera with so much more intricate adjustability, i wanted to try moving objects, and non landscape or creative arrangement. And, after photographing the ever living life out of our cats, and my fiancee, i settled on birds.

I had no idea what i was tapping into. No idea whatsoever.

So, last year, i sat on my porch, and also in front of my back kitchen wiindow.. I had some plants out there, and so we got a shepherds crook, and some cheap feeders, and there they were. Sparrows mostly, a couple mockingbirds, robins, grackles, starlings… I took some walks around our development and photographed the usual local avian life… chickadees, an occasional house finch. Mourning doves, that was mostly it for our home birds…

I documented all of these, and was developing a endless arsenal of photos. better all the time.

We eventually found our way to a wildlife reserve and historical park, where i got my first Woodpecker, a Kingfisher, and, a Blue Heron. Things were getting really exciting…

I will post these here, by type of bird, over the next several months.

The year went cold, and the seasons changed, and we began what was going to be a full six months of winter. Frigging yuck. : / I wasnt much into the idea of feeding them in winter, at first. i know better now. but i digress.

However, I The cold has finally gone away, and now, in mid april, and i have successfully switched from the back kitchen window, and yard, to the front kitchen window and yard, which has much better seclusion, and foliage.

Wow. Just, wow. The difference in the bird types that have come through has been amazing. Mny more birds than i had seen last season. Culminating, the beginning of my season, with a rare type, which had no business being in our area at all, this past week.

I remember looking out the window, and how my heart leapt, and how my hands shook with the camera. Lord, what an experience.

I immediately went out with my fiancee and did some price comparisons, and got some more tube feeders, and hangars, and suet and seed.

The rush, has been incredible. And i knew i wanted to do more, this year, than copy and paste bio information under my photos in a word document. I want to eventually get to writing out times of sightings, behaviours, changes in what seed im offering, calls and songs, and general blogging about my experiences, which, are quite thrilling and elatory. (<- Made that word up. What a beauty. <3)

So, Here is a picture of me, and some pictures of my setup in the yard. And, From here on out, Ill be popping in to add in more and more of the 27 types i have documented already, as well as any new birds who come through.

Nice to meet you, My name is Kim. And  I look forward to entertaining you, with my birds, and learning possibly, from yours. ❤

Now heres some pics.




Shepherds Crook, with a tube feeder of mix, and a Nyjer Seed feeder. I have not seen a finch on the Nyjer seed feeder. Fingers crossed. The Crook was on clearance at Tractor Supply, And each feeder was less than 5 bucks.


Tube feeder, and a suet block. There are now 2 suets in this tree.


A recent addition, of another shepherds crook, with a platform feeder on top. I made the platform out of a carving pan. I have since added the suet feeder on the left, to the tree above, And replaced it with the Nyjer finch feeder.


This is a feeder i made, the first one i had, this year. I wanted something open, and not quite so tube like. So i used an old cookie tin and some jewelry chain i got that wound up being no good for my intentions. This squirrel, is my arch nemesis. Well, there are three of them, really. Here is some more about them i guess… Just to give you an idea of their antics. as if you didnt already know.

They are pretty cute. But i am regardless, in the process of acquiring a proper water gun. >:-)


Stealin’ me nuts.


And some of this.


And lots of this.

Also, they broke the finch doors off my red tube feeder, 6 of them, actually, and also snapped the chains in the hanging tin feeder. They are bombardier nuisance ninja squirrels.


This above here is the feeder they ripped the little finch doors off of. : / I have to fill this one twice a day sometimes. Fuzzy jerks….

Matter of fact, i just got up to check the window and see what was up in the yard, and i found this… I just put this up this morning.


Enough about squirrels though….


^ here is a pair of house finches.


Northern Cardinal





Downy Woodpecker Male


Downy Woodpecker Female

So, there is the tip of the iceberg.

Stay tuned for actual, linear posts about individual birds, and all manner of ornithological awesomesauce.