How to attract Black-capped Chickadee to backyard feeder (2023)

Chickadees are cute little acrobatic balls of fluff, a joy to have visit your backyard or bird feeder. Would you like to have more? Then I'll give some suggestions to make your yard more desirable for them as I answer the question: How do you attract Black-capped Chickadees to your backyard & feeder?

We'll discuss how you can attract Black-capped Chickadees to your backyard and to your bird feeder by the following means:

Black-capped Chickadees are resident across the northern half of the United States and northward from Alaska to Newfoundland. They are found southward from Georgia to Missouri to New Mexico and northern California. They are found in deciduous and mixed woods. And, wonderfully, they are easily attracted to residential backyards!

There are 7 types of chickadees in North America. The Black-capped is the most widely distributed. But even if you live outside the range of Black-capped Chickadees, you may live within the range of one of the other chickadee species. This guide to attracting chickadees will work for these other species as well.

Like most chickadees Black-capped have black caps(!) and bibs. They have a white face. The back is dull gray, with a slight greenish cast. The under parts are buffy. These field marks will separate Black-capped Chickadees from other North American chickadees except Carolina Chickadee of the southeastern US, which is subtly different. Black-capped Chickadees have a richer buff color on the underparts, rather than a paler grayish or cream. The edges of the wing coverts on Black-capped Chickadees are obviously edged white. This feature is much more subdued or lacking on Carolina Chickadees.

Black-capped Chickadees give a slightly husky "chick-a-dee-dee" call. They also have a sweet whistled song: "fee-bee-bee."

Chickadees are social, usually found in small straggling flocks. In winter they may make up the core of mixed-species feeding flocks. Such flocks frequently include kinglets, nuthatches, creepers, downy woodpeckers, wrens, warblers, vireos and other small birds. Chickadees feed on the tips of trees and bushes, hanging acrobatically as they search for food.


Trees and plants that attract Black-capped Chickadees

This species resides in deciduous and woodland edges mixed with conifers. They are found in damp situations with willows and cottonwoods. They favor alder and birch for nesting (reference), which I'll discuss further, below.

If your neighborhood is bare of larger trees or thickets, and no one else around you is feeding birds, it may takes some time to attract these spunky little birds. How do you attract Black-capped Chickadees if that is the case?

In the long term, you can plant pines or other conifers that will grow into a place chickadees can seek shelter or food in the future years to come. Oaks will be a favorite, though they grow slowly. You may be able to plant faster growing trees or shrubby thickets such as alder, birch, elm, sumac and willow.

You should also consider planting sunflowers, blueberries, evergreen huckleberry or other similar bushes. Plants that bear small fruit and berries may be the fastest growing way to bring chickadees into your backyard. Check your local nurseries. Look for evergreen shrubs that are used for privacy hedges. Most nurseries will have a selection of native plants that should grow well and attract local birds.

Remember, though, that small hedges and the like may be more valuable for the chickadees to hide in and glean insects. The berries are just an added bonus. Let's look closer at what chickadees eat.

Bird foods to attract Black-capped Chickadees

Black-capped Chickadees are omnivorous. They eat insects, berries, seeds, invertebrates. In winter the ratio of plants to animals is about even. But in spring and summer the chickadees diet is primarily invertebrates (reference).

They hop from branch to branch gleaning insects and other food from the tips of branches. They sometimes engage in hover-gleaning: hovering in the air on rapidly beating wings while they pick food from nearby twig or leaf. They frequently hang upside down from branches as they feed.

(Video) 8 Feeder Foods That Chickadees LOVE to Eat! (Use them to attract chickadees to your feeders)

When food is abundant chickadees will cache excess food rather than consume it. They store food for later use, especially in fall and winter. These food caches are all in different locations--they do not store multiple items in a cache (reference). And they are excellent at remembering where they stored all their food caches!

This is all very interesting, but you are no doubt wondering: "How do I attract chickadees to my bird feeder?" Some of the favorite foods of Black-capped Chickadees include peanuts (or peanut pieces) and suet. So that is an excellent place to start. Chickadees love peanut butter! Spread peanut butter into the crevices of tree bark or insert it into hole on a hanging log feeder or pine cone (source).

Chickadees will chow down on mealworms. Mealworms are fed as an occasional treat, not a staple of the bird feeder. I had to look this up, because I haven't fed birds mealworms myself (source). Mealworms are the larvae of Darkling Beetle. I had no idea that in addition to dried mealworms, you can also buy live mealworms to feed birds. Live mealworms are kept at 40F to keep them from maturing into pupae and beetles. Yep, in your fridge! They are fed to birds in a feeder with a lip that keeps them from crawling out. Are you ready to try that?

What is the best bird seed for chickadees? No doubt about it. Chickadees love black oil sunflower seeds. This is far more economical than buying a bird seed mix with many types of seeds the chickadee probably won't eat. Chickadees grab one seed at a time, then fly to a branch away from the feeder to pound open the shell to get at the kernel inside.

Feeders to attract Black-capped Chickadees

So, now, what kind of feeders do chickadees like? Chickadees have no problem with small, hanging feeders that sway on a chain. In fact, these types of swinging feeders are very difficult for larger, more unwelcome birds such as jays and starlings to feed from. So these are ideal for chickadees.

Suet feeders, which are usually a block of fat or lard in a wire cage, are readily visited by Black-capped Chickadees. What kind of suet do chickadees like? Rather than plain, or one with seeds, try finding a suet cake with nuts and berries. The chickadees should love that!

Keep such suet feeders higher off the ground away from dogs. Get rid of any suet that turns rancid, and stop offering suet when the weather turns warm and it begins to melt or turns bad. Usually, though, suet is so prized that it doesn't last long in the feeder. If you put the suet cage on a longer chain it will swing wildly when heavy starlings try to feed and they'll fly off. Chickadees and smaller birds won't cause the swinging. Woodpeckers have strong feet and will be able to hang on without problem.

(Video) How to attract Chickadees - Basic tips

Chickadees will visit all feeders, but a tube feeder with black oil sunflowers seems to be their favorite. A squirrel-proof feeder, or one with a cage around it to keep out larger birds, will ensure that more aggressive birds don't drive off the chickadees.

Nest boxes to attract Black-capped Chickadees

Black-capped Chickadees nest in old woodpecker holes, especially in birch and alder. Since these are likely in short supply in towns and residential neighborhoods, consider putting up a nest box.

The size of the nest box should be 5x5 inches on the floor and 8 inches high. The diameter of the entrance hole should be 1-1/8 inches, and the top of it about 1 inch down from the top. The nest box should be placed from 5 to 15 feet off the ground (source).

The 1-1/8 inch diameter entrance hole is the most important part. Any larger and the nest box will likely be taken over by House Sparrows or swallows. With this smaller hole, the chickadees will be competing primarily with nuthatches and wrens. Even so, Black-capped Chickadees may lose that battle, as they aren't as aggressive.

Black-capped Chickadees lay from 1-13 eggs that hatch in about 2 weeks. Two weeks after that they may begin leaving the nest! Then they'll be visiting your birdbath and feeders.

Attracting chickadees to nest boxes is generally not too difficult, if they are around. Add one inch of wood shavings to the bottom of the nest box, rather than leaving it bare. Always clean out old nest boxes in February and March, before the new nesting season starts.

Water to attract chickadees: Drinking and bathing

An article on attracting chickadees would not be complete without discussing water. All birds need clean water for drinking and bathing. They need water in both summer and winter--all year round.

(Video) Tricks for Hand Feeding Wild Black Capped Chickadees

Unfortunately, bird baths can foul quickly. Algae, bacteria, mold, leaves and dirt, mosquitoes. All these can pollute your bird's water. When you buy a birdbath, make sure you also buy a sturdy scrub brush and a bottle of 10% bleach solution (hydrogen peroxide is an alternative). Then, plan on cleaning it up to 3 times per week in summer. If you are unable or unwilling to keep your birdbath clean, then it would be better not to have one. A dirty birdbath can spread disease to the birds.

A simple birdbath you purchase at the local garden department is likely to be too deep for many smaller birds. Encourage small birds to use your bird bath by placing a large flat stone so that it is just below the surface. Place a branch or perch just above the water so the birds don't even have to get their feet wet to get a drink. Most decorative fountains and birdbaths are too big, and circulate too much water, to make birds comfortable using them. They also may be too smooth. Birdbaths should be rough so that birds will not slip.

Chickadees and other birds are really attracted to dripping water. Not necessarily a solid flow, but a trickle or drip. I have seen a two-tiered solar-powered birdbath that might be perfect. There are also solar bubblers. So many options!

Birds need drinking water in winter. Consider a heated bird bath if you live where water freezes in winter.


Conclusion

If you live in the northern half of the US or Canada, attracting Black-capped Chickadees to your backyard and feeder is usually not difficult. In fact, the curious chickadees may be the first birds to visit your new feeders.

Even if the surrounding neighborhood is bare of thickets or tall trees you may be able to attract chickadees to your backyard by planting fast growing hedges or leafy trees. These birds tend to spread out into more habitats in winter. So even if it appears there aren't any chickadees near your home, some may wander by in winter. One they find your feeder they're likely to be a regular visitor.

Peanuts, peanut butter, black oil sunflower seeds and suet will quickly be noticed by any chickadees that happen by. Feed the sunflower seeds from a tube feeder, perhaps with a squirrel baffle or cage around it.

(Video) How to Attract Chickadees to your backyard with Birdman Mel

And don't forget to add water to your bird feeding station. A heated birdbath may be appreciated in northern climes. And make sure there is a shallow portion of the birdbath for smaller birds.

You can even put up a nest box and possibly enjoy hosting a Black-capped Chickadee family for the summer.

I certainly hope that Black-capped Chickadees become regular visitors to your backyard and feeder!

(Video) Attracting Chickadees to your Backyard

FAQs

What can I feed a black capped chickadee? ›

Like many birds, black-capped chickadees are omnivorous. They eat a diet of seeds, berries, insects, invertebrates, and occasionally small portions of carrion. Chickadees also love to eat suet and peanut butter offered at bird feeders.

How do you encourage chickadees? ›

Chickadee houses should be mounted on a tree, wall, or pole 4-15 feet above the ground. A scattering of wood shavings or sawdust inside the house can encourage chickadees to nest, and offering nesting materials such as pet fur or small bits of string can also attract nesting chickadees.

What color are chickadees attracted to? ›

Chickens are attracted to the color red. If you want to attract chickens to your coop, paint it and the nesting boxes a nice bright shade of red.

How do you make a chickadee feeder? ›

They use a little plastic piece I found around to reinforce a little and but my wire at the end. So

Will chickadees eat peanut butter? ›

The most common birds attracted to peanut butter are the woodpeckers, jays, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice. There are several ways to feed peanut butter: Spread the peanut butter on a pine cone or other surface and let birds “forage” for the peanut butter by removing it with their beaks.

What kind of fruit do chickadees like? ›

Bird Species That Eat Fruits
Bird SpeciesFruits They Eat
Black-capped ChickadeeBerries including serviceberries, bayberries, blackberries, and blueberries
Gray CatbirdDogwood, cherries, serviceberries, and winterberries
Purple FinchApples, bananas ,blueberries, apricots, and blackberries
27 more rows
1 Jun 2022

What is chickadees favorite food? ›

Quality Food:

Chickadees forage in trees and shrubs, even clinging upside to snag insects from the underside of leaves. You'll often see them at tray, tube or hopper feeders, especially in winter. They like suet, peanuts, peanut butter, black oil sunflower seeds and hulled sunflower seeds.

What plants attract chickadees? ›

Chickadees prefer areas with plenty of trees belonging to species that support the greatest quantities of caterpillars – oak, native cherries, birch, willow, and hickory. The birds avoid areas dominated by non-native woody plants, where there are fewer insects available to eat.

Do chickadees like nyjer seed? ›

Birds that like nyjer (thistle) seeds are finches, sparrows, doves, goldfinches, chickadees, titmouses, juncos, siskins, and redpolls. Nyjer seeds are black, hard-shelled seeds similar to sunflower seeds but smaller. They are very high in oil at about 30 – 40%, so they are an excellent choice for birds.

What time of day do chickadees feed? ›

Chickadees are very active in the morning, when they forage and eat seeds from plants. Their activity peaks around 10 am to 11 am.

What kind of bird houses do chickadees like? ›

All species of chickadees and titmice will use birdhouses. Requirements: 4” x 4” or 5” x 5” base x 8” high; hole: 1-1/4”, centered 6” above the floor; color: earth tone; placement: 4–8' high in small tree thicket. Habitat: These birds nest in dense natural habitat, such as thickets or stands of small trees.

Do chickadees eat bread? ›

DO NOT FEED BREAD – bread is often the first kind of food humans give to birds. However, birds receive very little nutrition from bread and may die from a diet high on bread as this can cause malnutrition, especially in the winter when there is little other food available.

What do chickadees eat in the winter? ›

Chickadees eat insects, berries, and seeds for much of the year, and they have beaks that are well-adapted to cracking oil- and energy-rich conifer seeds, their main winter food. They have even been seen eating energy-rich fat from animal carcasses opened up by predators and scavengers.

Do chickadees eat sunflower seeds? ›

Sunflower seeds are the seeds favored by most seed-eating birds, some 40 species including cardinals, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, house and purple finches, American goldfinches, brown-headed nuthatches, and red-bellied woodpeckers, to name a few.

Can birds eat oatmeal? ›

Can birds eat porridge oats? Yes, birds can eat porridge oats, but they need to be dry – cooked (or wet) and they will stick to and set around birds' beaks.

Do chickadees like black sunflower seeds? ›

Which Birds: Songbirds such as chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, finches, and jays universally prefer black oil sunflower seed. Hulled sunflower is favored by smaller species such as chickadees and finches, and is sometimes consumed by species such as juncos that cannot open sunflower seeds.

Do chickadees like blueberries? ›

Black-Capped Chickadees eat a wide variety of berries, including bayberries, blueberries, and serviceberries. They also eat insects that are attracted to berries, so planting berry bushes and trees is a good way to attract Black-capped Chickadees for numerous reasons.

Should I soak raisins for birds? ›

Raisins are loved by many bird species, such as blackbirds and song thrushes. Raisins are most effective when fed from the ground. Soaking raisins during the breeding season helps adults to supply their young with necessary water.

Do chickadees like raisins? ›

Black-capped Chickadees will also readily visit feeders for whole or shelled sunflower seeds, raisins, and suet, and they will even snack on suet or peanut butter smeared directly on tree trunks for fast and easy access.

Can birds eat cheerios? ›

It's funny about Cheerios – everyone can eat them: kids, puppies, birds and even koi fish!” Many bird owners are worried about the presence of zinc in cereal. Monaco says, “Zinc is an essential element in everyone's diet. If the body gets a little too much, it will compensate.

What seeds attract chickadees? ›

They also love to eat black oil sunflower seeds, pine seeds, walnut, birch, ragweed, and hemlock. Also, they like peanut kernels, gray-striped sunflower seeds, suet, peanut butter mixes, and hulled sunflower seeds. The chickadees eat one seed at a time. They will visit your feeder and take one seed and fly away.

What kind of suet do chickadees like? ›

3) Provide suet during cool weather only

Suet (beef fat) attracts insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice.

What do black capped chickadees eat in the winter? ›

In winter, feeds on insects (especially their eggs and pupae), seeds, berries, small fruits.

Do chickadees drink water? ›

Do chickadees drink a lot of water? Chickadees require a plentiful water source to stay hydrated and healthy. This species will take advantage of a shallow bird bath to clean their feathers if one is available.

Do chickadees eat peanuts? ›

Providing shelled peanuts is a great addition to the choices you offer your backyard birds. Peanuts are a high-energy food and are enjoyed by a wide variety of birds such as woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, jays and more. Many of their visits will be to carry peanuts off and cache them for a later meal.

Why are birds not eating nyjer seed? ›

Nancy Castillo, co-owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Saratoga Springs, New York, and author of the blog Zen Birdfeeder, points out that Nyjer contains natural high-calorie oils that attract finches. When the oils dry out, the seed loses both its food value and its flavor, and birds shun it.

What fruits do chickadees eat? ›

Birds will also eat a number of fruits that may be unpalatable or toxic to humans. Berries and small fruits, including blueberries, raspberries, currants, blackberries, mulberries, beautyberries, serviceberries, sumac, holly, juniper, and viburnum are especially popular with many birds.

What bird seed attracts the most birds? ›

sunflower

What month do chickadees lay eggs? ›

By mid-April most are building nests and by the first week of May the females typically are laying eggs. The nestlings begin hatching two weeks later, grow rapidly, and start fledging in early June.

Do birds tell each other where food is? ›

There are also contact calls, which birds can use to talk to each other when foraging for food. So I would say yes, birds do talk and communicate where food is, in their own way.

How long does it take for birds to notice a bird feeder? ›

If you have not yet been feeding birds in your backyard, it may take from one day to several months before the birds in your area discover your new feeder. Be patient and consider the following: It is important that you use a seed type or seed blend based on the birds in your area.

Does a chickadee birdhouse need a perch? ›

Every year we have found that when two birdhouses are identical except for the presence/absence of a perch are compared, the chickadees and wrens have always picked a birdhouse with a perch. No young have been lost due to predation. Perches may be preferred by these chickadees or wrens for multiple reasons.

How high up should a chickadee house be? ›

Appropriate height

Species like wrens and chickadees enjoy birdhouses at a standard elevation of 5 feet. Bluebirds prefer 6 feet. Purple martins like 10 to 12 feet!

Where do you hang a chickadee bird house? ›

Box Location Chickadees use abandoned woodpecker holes or cavities that they excavate themselves. To prevent wrens from using the boxes, place the boxes at least 60' into the wooded area. An unobstructed flight path to the entrance hole is desirable, as is a location that receives sunlight between 40-60% of the day.

How far away from the house should a bird feeder be? ›

A distance of about 10 feet seems to be a good compromise, but try experimenting. You can provide resting and escape cover for ground-dwelling birds such as Song Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows by providing loosely stacked brush piles near your feeders.

Do birds eat bananas? ›

Fruits. Fruits without seeds, like berries, raisins, grapes and mashed bananas can all be offered to the birds on your bird table – and they'll love them!

What do black-capped chickadees like to eat? ›

Diet. Mostly insects, seeds, and berries. Diet varies with season; vegetable matter (seeds and fruits) may be no more than 10% of diet in summer, up to 50% in winter. Summer diet is mostly caterpillars and other insects, also some spiders, snails, and other invertebrates; also eats berries.

Will chickadees eat fruit? ›

Chickadees are omnivores so will eat both plant and animal matter. In the wild chickadees eat a wide range of food types including seeds, fruit berries, insects and carrion. Seeds and fruit form the major part of their diet but chickadees will feed off small amounts of animal flesh.

Can you keep a chickadee as a pet? ›

No, Chickadees do not make good pets. Even though they are small and adorable, these are wild birds. In most places it is illegal for you to keep one as a pet.

Do chickadees drink water? ›

Chickadees do visit birdbaths for drinking and bathing, but remember that these are small birds, so the water must be very shallow. You can add some river rocks or gravel to give the birds something to perch on while they drink.

Do chickadees like raisins? ›

Black-capped Chickadees will also readily visit feeders for whole or shelled sunflower seeds, raisins, and suet, and they will even snack on suet or peanut butter smeared directly on tree trunks for fast and easy access.

Do chickadees like nyjer seed? ›

Birds that like nyjer (thistle) seeds are finches, sparrows, doves, goldfinches, chickadees, titmouses, juncos, siskins, and redpolls. Nyjer seeds are black, hard-shelled seeds similar to sunflower seeds but smaller. They are very high in oil at about 30 – 40%, so they are an excellent choice for birds.

What plants attract chickadees? ›

Chickadees prefer areas with plenty of trees belonging to species that support the greatest quantities of caterpillars – oak, native cherries, birch, willow, and hickory. The birds avoid areas dominated by non-native woody plants, where there are fewer insects available to eat.

What time of day do chickadees feed? ›

Chickadees are very active in the morning, when they forage and eat seeds from plants. Their activity peaks around 10 am to 11 am.

Should I soak raisins for birds? ›

Raisins are loved by many bird species, such as blackbirds and song thrushes. Raisins are most effective when fed from the ground. Soaking raisins during the breeding season helps adults to supply their young with necessary water.

Do chickadees recognize people? ›

Chickadees Aren't Just Cute, They Understand Humans

According to research by University of Alberta scientists, humans, Black-capped Chickadees, and songbirds understand how others are feeling through different levels of vocalizations. Besides being adorable, these cute little songbirds get us, humans.

How do you befriend chickadees? ›

Tricks for Hand Feeding Wild Black Capped Chickadees - YouTube

Do chickadees like humans? ›

Urban Chickadees Lose Their Fear Of Novel Situations

However, the really important thing about this study is it shows that chickadee friendliness is actually a learned behavior rather than an inherent characteristic of the species. It's not simply that all chickadees are comfortable being close to humans.

Do chickadees eat oranges? ›

They love to visit gardens with lots of berry bushes. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, bilberries, cranberries, cut grapes, and bilberries are all welcome foods. These birds might also eat other fruits such as cut pawpaw, apple, pear, or even orange if you cut these fruits up for easy consumption.

Can chickadees eat bread? ›

DO NOT FEED BREAD – bread is often the first kind of food humans give to birds. However, birds receive very little nutrition from bread and may die from a diet high on bread as this can cause malnutrition, especially in the winter when there is little other food available.

Can chickadees eat sunflower seeds? ›

sunflower -- will attract the greatest variety of birds. Sunflower seeds are the seeds favored by most seed-eating birds, some 40 species including cardinals, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, house and purple finches, American goldfinches, brown-headed nuthatches, and red-bellied woodpeckers, to name a few.

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