You can see the delightful Black-capped Chickadee hopping and zipping across backyards from New York to New Orleans, Maine to Montana, and Calgary to California, but did you ever see a chickadee hunting?
These adorable songbirds have a “ferocious” side too.
Don’t be fooled by this bird’s tiny size and cuteness. Chickadees are supremely clever birds and tenacious hunters.
Watching a Chickadee Hunting
Hiking on the Ashokan Quarry Trail in Olivebridge, NY, we heard a Black-capped Chickadee calling. Usually, the birds fly off as we approach, but not this time. Instead, the chickadee was preoccupied, looking for something in the twigs on the ground as it called out.
I’m not going to lie. As serious as the Chickadee was, it was so adorable to see.
Then we saw it. A walking stick a short distance from the chickadee’s sight. This fabulously camouflaged insect blended with the other sticks on the ground, evading the “ferocious” chickadee.
The chickadee was confused because it couldn’t find its prey and flew off but continued calling out.
Seeing the chickadee hunting was incredible; we captured some of it in this clip.
What Do Black-capped Chickadee Eat
So what do these adorable songbirds eat?
These songbirds are omnivores, so they eat both plant and animal matter.
If you asked a chickadee what it eats, it might say, “Whatever I can find with my beak.”
Chickadees eat various food types in the wild, including seeds, fruit berries, insects, and carrion. Seeds and fruit are central to the chickadee’s diet, but they occasionally feed off small amounts of carrion when other food is scarce.
When visiting our bird feeders, chickadees enjoy eating sunflower clips. The bird takes one seed, darts to a branch to eat, and quickly returns for another.
Sometimes the chickadee isn’t eating the seed. Instead, the bird is storing it. Chickadees are what are called “cachers.” They hide seeds elsewhere, keeping them in holes they make in crevices in trees or under rocks.
Some chickadees cache their food throughout the year, but most birds concentrate on caching during the fall, when food is most plentiful, for winter, when food becomes scarce. Unless you’re a chickadee in our yard. We feed them year-round.
One chickadee can cache up to 500,000 food items a year in hiding spots spread over several acres and then remember where the treats are hidden when hungry.
So how do they remember where they store their food stash? Chickadees can have a few hundred to several thousand different hiding spots.
An adult chickadee may have to remember anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of different spots.
Chickadees evolved to have “spatial memory,” helping them to remember exact cache locations, down to the centimeter, just by using geographical landmarks.
Black-capped chickadees produce an abundance of memory cells during the fall that increases the size of their hippocampus (the main part of the brain associated with memory) to remember all of its cache points.
Bet you wish humans had this ability the next time you misplace car keys or the TV remote.
So the next time a Black-capped Chickadee grabs a seed from your feeder and darts off with it, remember you’re providing your backyard friend with seeds to enjoy now and treats for it to store and enjoy for later.
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