How to Attract Chickadees (Top Tips for Different Species)

Want to attract chickadees to your yard? Keep reading!

These active birds are not only adorable and fun to watch, but they also help control insect populations, so they’re good for any garden.

In this article, we’re explaining how to create a chickadee-friendly environment that will invite these delightful birds to your backyard, including tips on attracting specific species from the black-capped chickadee to the Carolina chickadee.

In a nutshell, here’s how to attract chickadees:

  • Provide chickadee foods like black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, and mealworms in tray, tube, hopper, and suet feeders.
  • Cultivate a chickadee-friendly yard with native plants, water sources, and safe nesting materials.
  • Interaction with chickadees should be limited to observation so as not to interfere or scare these little birds away

How to Attract Chickadees with Food

black capped chickadee bird sitting on a wire with an insect in its beak

Chickadees eat mainly three things:

  • Insects
  • Seeds
  • Fruits and berries

Occasionally, chickadees will eat fat off of carrion.

Offering their key food sources—in the right types of bird feeders—will make a big difference in attracting more chickadees.

Below, we’ll talk about the different types of grub, water sources, and bird feeders you can use to entice chickadees to visit your yard.

Read Next: What Do Little Birds Eat?

Chickadees’ Favorite Seeds and Nuts

  • Chickadees enjoy a wide variety of seeds and nuts, with black oil sunflower seeds being their top choice.
  • Hulled sunflower seeds and shelled peanuts are other favorites.
  • Peanut butter is tempting for chickadees, so try adding it to suet, or even putting some peanut butter on the bark of trees surrounding your property to lure shy chickadees hiding out.
  • On top of offering these seeds in your bird feeders, growing sunflowers or other seed-bearing flowers in your garden can provide natural sources of food for them.
  • You can also offer nyjer seed and safflower seed to attract a wider variety of birds.

Suet and Insects

  • Chickadees are natural insect eaters, so it’s no surprise that they enjoy feeding on suet and mealworms.
  • Suet is an excellent supplement, especially during colder months, as it provides much-needed energy and nutrition.
  • Mealworms, on the other hand, are a protein-packed snack that chickadees will happily forage for.

In fact, offering mealworms at your feeding station can provide a healthy treat for many backyard birds, including chickadees.

Best Types of Bird Feeders for Chickadees

black capped chickadee clinging to a wire cage surrounding a tube bird feeder

Chickadee birds prefer:

  • Tray feeders
  • Tube feeders (mesh in particular)
  • Hopper feeders
  • Suet feeders

This is because these types of bird feeders allow for easier access to their favorite foods.

You may also consider a bird feeder made with mesh for chickadees to cling to, or one that offers perches for them to feed comfortably.

There are even caged bird feeders with a tube insert on the inside of a wired cage that little birds like chickadees can fit through, but larger birds can’t.

That being said, chickadees are not too picky when it comes to the type of feeder they use. So if you’ve been seeing chickadees at other types of feeders, that’s why.

Just make sure your chickadee bird feeder is well-constructed and sturdy, as chickadees love clinging to feeders while eating.

Best Chickadee Bird Houses

mountain chickadee peeping out of a bird house

As you may have suspected, the best bird houses for chickadees have a certain set of features.

Here are key characteristics of a good chickadee bird house:

  1. Size: Chickadees are small birds, so the bird house should be appropriately sized to accommodate them. A good chickadee bird house should be about 4-6 inches wide and about 8-10 inches tall.
  2. Entrance hole: In general, the entrance hole should be about 1-1/8 inches in diameter. This is the perfect size for chickadees to enter and exit the bird house.
  3. Materials: The bird house should be made from high-quality materials like cedar or other rot-resistant wood.
  4. Roof: To prevent water from pooling on top of the bird house, the roof should be sloped.
  5. Ventilation: Check that the chickadee bird house has ventilation holes near the top. This is important to allow air to circulate and prevent the bird house from overheating.
  6. Easy to clean: It should have a removable bottom or side panel to make it easy to clean out old nesting material and debris.
  7. Mounting: Mount the bird house on a sturdy pole or tree trunk least 5-6 feet off the ground to protect these birds from predators.

Overall, a good chickadee bird house should be well-designed, durable, and provide a safe and comfortable home.

Water Sources to Attract Chickadees

mountain chickadee at a bird bath

Water plays a crucial role in attracting not only chickadees, but also other wildlife to your yard!

Here are some key things to consider.

  • Setting up a birdbath, especially one with moving water like a dripper, can help to attract chickadees to your home.
  • During winter, heated bird baths are crucial, as chickadees do not migrate and require access to fresh water even in the coldest months.
  • Make sure to keep the water fresh for chickadees to drink and bathe in.

Remember to keep water sources and bird feeders clean and well-maintained to ensure they stay attractive to these lovely birds.

How to Create a Chickadee-Friendly Yard

chickadee nesting in the cavity of a tree

Best Plant Choices

To attract chickadees to your yard or garden, plant the types of plants they like!

  • Native plants, such as flowers, trees, and shrubs, are best since they provide natural food sources and habitats for the birds.
  • Some ideal choices include berry-producing trees and bushes, as well as flowers that produce seeds.
  • Providing the chickadees with a diverse range of food options will keep them coming back to your yard.

Key Shelter and Nesting Sites

Chickadees, like many birds, require safe shelter and nesting sites.

  • Trees and shrubs, especially those with cavities or branches, provide excellent places for these birds to nest and find protection from predators.
  • Dead trees are particularly valuable, as they are often used by cavity-nesting birds like woodpeckers and chickadees.
  • Birdhouses designed for cavity nesters, with proper hole sizes and heights, are also a great way to provide additional housing for chickadees.

Creating Varied Habitats

Diverse habitats make a chickadee-friendly yard.

  • Create different habitat layers by combining trees, shrubs, and low-growing plants to encourage chickadees and other birds to stay in your yard.
  • Also, try to avoid clearing dead or dying trees, as they can serve as valuable resources for cavity-nesting birds, including chickadees.

Avoiding Pesticides and Chemicals

  • The use of pesticides and chemicals can pose a risk to chickadees and other wildlife.
  • As such, reducing or eliminating their use will no doubt create a healthier environment for these birds and improve their chances of survival.
  • Favoring organic gardening practices and allowing your yard to maintain a natural, pesticide-free state can help attract chickadees and enhance their overall well-being.

Offering Nesting Materials

wood shavings covering a surface

One of the best ways to help chickadees thrive in your backyard is to offer them proper nesting materials.

These sweet little birds build their nests in cavities or roosting boxes and require specific materials to make their abode comfortable.

Natural Materials

Chickadees prefer a mix of natural materials that provide them with a cozy and secure environment to lay their eggs and raise their young.

Some of the best natural nesting materials you can provide include:

  • Wood shavings: Provide small, untreated wood shavings that can be easily placed in the nesting cavity or box.
  • Moss and lichen: Chickadees appreciate soft materials such as moss and lichen, which they can use to line their nest.
  • Pet fur: If you have a cat or dog that sheds, you can even save their fur and offer it as a soft, natural addition to the nest.

Synthetic Materials

Although natural materials are recommended, chickadees can also use synthetic materials to build their nests.

If you choose to use synthetic materials, make sure they are soft and free from chemicals. Some suitable options include:

  • Yarn or string: Cut yarn or string into small pieces (4-6 inches) and avoid using anything that may easily fray or tangle.
  • Cotton balls: A few cotton balls can serve as a soft, fluffy substitute for natural materials.

Placement of Nesting Materials

Placement is important when offering nesting materials.

To help attract chickadees, consider the following tips:

  1. Hang the materials in mesh bags or suet cages, making it easy for chickadees to access.
  2. If offering pet fur, place it in a dry, sheltered location or attach it to a tree branch.
  3. Set out nesting materials in early spring, as chickadees typically start nesting in April.

Remember to be patient and observe the chickadees in your yard. Offer appropriate nesting materials and follow the recommendations above, and you’ll get more chickadees visiting your home.

How to Attract Specific Species of Chickadees

Wondering what to do for specific types of chickadees in your local area?

Let’s dive into the needs and preferences of different chickadee species to help attract them to your yard.

Black-Capped Chickadees

black capped chickadee bird sitting on a pine branch

Black-Capped Chickadees are one of the most common chickadee species in North America. These non-migratory birds can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and suburban areas from the northeast to the west.

Appearance

  • This chickadee species has a distinctive black cap and bib, with white cheeks and a gray back.
  • Their wings and tail feathers are also gray, and their underparts are white.
  • They have a short, stubby bill and are about 4-5 inches in length, with a wingspan of about 6-8 inches.

How to attract them

  • Offering a mix of sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet in bird feeders year-round can invite Black-Capped Chickadees to your property.
  • Black-Capped Chickadees prefer areas with mature trees and shrubs, so planting native plants and trees can help create a more natural habitat for them.
  • For bird houses, these birds need an entrance hole of about 1-1/8 inches in diameter and a depth of about 5-6 inches.
  • Attract them by providing nesting materials such as small twigs, grasses, and feathers.

Carolina Chickadees

carolina chickadee on a branch

The Carolina Chickadee is a small, non-migratory bird species native to the southeastern part of the United States.

Appearance

  • Carolina Chickadees have a black cap and bib, white cheeks, and a gray back and wings with a buffy or light brownish underside.
  • They look a lot like the Black-Capped Chickadee, but their white cheeks are more grayish.
  • They’re also slightly smaller than Black-Capped Chickadees, typically measuring about 4-5 inches long and with a wingspan of approximately 6-7 inches.

How to attract them

  • Attracting these chickadees is not unlike attracting the Black-Capped Chickadee.
  • The key to attracting them is providing the right kind of food and nesting environment. You can offer a mix of seeds, nuts, and fruit, as well as suet and insects throughout the year.
  • Birdhouses or nest boxes should have an entrance hole of about 1 1/8 inches for Carolina Chickadees.

Mountain Chickadees

mountain chickadee bird on a branch

You can spot the Mountain Chickadee in the western portions of the United States and Canada. They favor the dry conifer forests of western mountains.

Appearance

  • Like Carolina Chickadees, Mountain Chickadees look very similar to Black-Capped Chickadees, only they have a telltale white stripe over their black cap.
  • Their beaks are also slightly longer, and their bellies are grayer than the Black-Capped Chickadee’s.
  • Lastly, this type of chickadee is a little larger than other chickadees, coming in at about 5-6 inches long with a 7-8 inch wingspan.

How to attract them

  • These chickadees have similar food preferences to Carolina Chickadees. You can feed these energetic birds with a variety of seeds and nuts, as well as suet and insects (or mealworms).
  • Mountain Chickadees are known for their acrobatic feeding, so it may be a good idea to add hanging feeders in your yard.
  • If you like sunflowers, consider growing them and other seed-producing flowers as an additional source of chickadee food.
  • In terms of nesting, they appreciate nest boxes with larger entrance holes, about 1¼ inches.

Boreal Chickadees

boreal chickadee sitting on an evergreen branch

Boreal Chickadees are primarily found year-round in dense coniferous forests in the far northern United States, and across the Canadian border.

Appearance

  • These birds have a brown cap and a gray bill.
  • Their white cheeks are buffy in color, and they have a brownish-gray back and wings with a buffy or light brownish underside.
  • Their tail feathers are also brownish-gray, and they have a short, stubby bill similar to other chickadee species. Overall, Boreal Chickadees have a cute and charming appearance, with subtle differences in coloring that set them apart from other chickadee species.

How to attract them

  • These birds need a slightly different diet than their southern cousins.
  • Boreal Chickadees prefer food that is high in fat content, like suet and sunflower seeds, but also consume insects and larvae.
  • Nest boxes for Boreal Chickadees should have entrance holes similar in size to those for Mountain Chickadees—about 1¼ inches.
  • Bird house depth should be 7-8 inches approximately.

Chestnut-Backed Chickadees

Chestnut Backed Chickadee on a branch

Chestnut-Backed Chickadees live in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Canada.

They are typically found in dense, coniferous forests, including old-growth forests, and are often associated with areas of heavy underbrush and fallen logs. But you can also catch sight of them in suburban areas with mature trees and shrubs.

Appearance

  • Chestnut-Backed Chickadees are characterized by their chestnut-colored back, black cap, and white cheeks.
  • Their wings and tail feathers are gray, and their underparts are white.
  • They’re about 4-5 inches in length and have a wingspan of 6-7 inches.

How to attract them

  • To attract them, provide the same variety of seeds, nuts, and fruit as for the other species.
  • They are also attracted to water sources for bathing and drinking.
  • Nest boxes for these birds should have smaller entrance holes, around 1 1/8 inches, to accommodate their slightly smaller size.

Gray-Headed Chickadees

gray headed chickadee in the woods

Gray-Headed Chickadees, found primarily in Alaska and northwest Canada, are the most elusive of the five species.

Appearance

  • These chickadees have a gray head, white cheeks, and a dark bill, with their gray head and neck being the most distinctive feature.
  • Their wings and tails are brownish-gray, with white underparts.
  • In terms of size, they are roughly 4-5 inches long and have a 6-7 inch wingspan.

How to attract them

  • These birds consume a wide range of food, including insects, seeds, nuts, and fruit.
  • To attract them, include fatty foods like suet and sunflower seeds in your bird feeders.
  • Gray-Headed Chickadees will appreciate nest boxes with an entrance hole of about 1¼ inches.

Mexican Chickadees

The Mexican Chickadee lives primarily in Mexico but can also be spotted in the southwestern United States, namely Arizona and New Mexico.

They like various habitats, including oak woodlands, pine forests, and riparian areas, and are generally non-migratory.

Appearance

  • Mexican Chickadees sport a black cap and bib, white cheeks, and gray color on their backs, wings, and tails.
  • They are small, about 4-5 inches in length, and with a wingspan of approximately 6-7 inches.
  • Overall, Mexican Chickadees look much like other chickadee species, but have a slightly different coloration.

How to attract them

  • Mexican Chickadees prefer their nesting homes to have a 1-1/8 inch entrance hole and a depth of about 5-6 inches.
  • You can offer them natural materials to line their nests like moss and animal hair.

Tips on Interacting with Chickadees

Bird Watching

As you well know, chickadees are delightful birds that make for an enjoyable bird-watching experience.

To attract them to your area, consider planting various trees and shrubs in mixed clumps, as this will provide them with better foraging areas and denser shelter.

Place bird feeders near suitable perches, as chickadees prefer to flit away to a safe spot to eat each seed in comfort.

In addition, providing a shallow bird bath with clean, fresh water shouldn’t be underestimated, as they do not migrate south during the winter months.

Feeding Chickadees by Hand

chickadee bird eating seeds out of a hand

It’s important to approach hand-feeding chickadees with patience and caution.

These curious birds may be attracted to humans holding food, but it might take some time for them to feel comfortable enough to land on your hand.

To begin, try using a hopper feeder, tray, or tube feeder filled with chickadee-preferred foods like sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet.

  1. Start by standing near the feeder, allowing the birds to become familiar with your presence.
  2. Gradually move closer to the feeder over a few days, until you are within arm’s reach.
  3. Replace the feeder with a flat, extended hand, and place some seeds in your palm.
  4. Wait patiently, keeping your hand still and palm open. Chickadees may take a while to become comfortable landing on your hand, so persevere and maintain a calm demeanor.

Bear in mind, attracting and feeding these friendly creatures should always be done with respect and mindfulness of their natural instincts.

If you make them feel safe, you can enjoy their company while promoting positive interactions between humans and wildlife.

Understanding Chickadees: The Basics

Types of Chickadees

Chickadees are small, energetic birds belonging to the family Paridae and the genus Poecile. They are predominantly found in North America, with some species also inhabiting parts of Europe and Asia.

There are seven primary types of chickadees:

  • Black-Capped Chickadee
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Boreal Chickadee
  • Chestnut-Backed Chickadee
  • Gray-Headed Chickadee
  • Mexican Chickadee

Habitat and Range

  • Chickadees inhabit a diverse range of environments, from dense forests to suburban backyards.
  • They are commonly found in mixed deciduous and coniferous forests, as well as woodlands, swamps, and urban parks.
  • While each type of chickadee has its own specific range, the majority of them can be found throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Some species extend into Europe and Asia.

Physical Characteristics

  • Chickadees are typically small and plump with a round, inquisitive appearance.
  • They have distinctive black caps and white cheeks, which are common features across all species.
  • The body is mostly gray, with varying shades and markings depending on the species.
  • Chickadees have short wings, a gray tail, and a mainly black bill with a yellow spot on the lower mandible.

Behavior and Diet

  • Chickadees are highly active and social birds, often seen flitting around and searching for food throughout the day.
  • Their diet consists of insects, seeds, nuts, and fruit, making them highly adaptable to various environments.
  • They are known to cache their food, hiding it in various locations to be consumed later.
  • During winter months, chickadees rely more heavily on seeds and nuts, and are often seen visiting bird feeders in search of sustenance.

Chickadee Sounds and Song

  • Chickadee vocalizations are quite distinctive, featuring a variety of calls and songs used for communication.
  • Their most recognizable sound is the “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call, from which their name is derived.
  • This call serves multiple purposes, including maintaining contact with flock members, raising alarms, and expressing agitation.
  • Chickadees also have a sweet, whistled song that varies slightly between species, often consisting of two or three notes.

Working with Local Organizations and Experts

  • Engaging with local organizations and experts can be an effective way to learn about attracting chickadees to your yard.
  • One such organization you might want to connect with is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They conduct pioneering research on birds and offer a wealth of knowledge to bird enthusiasts.
  • Also, consider reaching out to local birdwatching clubs or nature centers, where experienced birdwatchers can provide you with personalized advice for attracting chickadees in your region. These experts can guide you on the specific types of food, shelter, and nesting materials favored by chickadees in your area.
  • Joining online forums and social media groups dedicated to birdwatching can also be a valuable resource. Connecting with fellow enthusiasts allows you to share experiences and learn from the collective wisdom of the community.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of feeders do chickadees prefer?

Chickadees are generally fond of platform, hopper, and tube feeders.

Providing a variety of feeder styles with easy access to their favorite foods will help entice these birds into your yard.

Which birdhouse designs are most suitable for chickadees?

A nesting box designed specifically for chickadees is ideal. These boxes should be mounted on a tree trunk at a height of about 6 feet, as chickadees tend to nest in stumps or holes that are 4 to 15 feet above the ground.

Ventilation holes near the top, drainage holes on the bottom, and an easily accessible entrance hole are important features to consider.

What seeds are most appealing to chickadees?

Chickadees enjoy a variety of seeds, nuts, and fruit. They are particularly fond of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and suet.

Offering a mix of their favorites will increase your chances of attracting them to your yard.

Do specific colors attract chickadees more easily?

Chickadees don’t seem to have a strong preference for specific colors.

Instead, focus on providing a natural, inviting environment that appeals to their needs for food, water, shelter, and nesting.

How can I get chickadees to eat from my hand?

Chickadees are known for their tameness and curiosity, which can make it possible for some individuals to hand-feed them.

Begin by standing or sitting near your bird feeders, so the birds become familiar with your presence. Gradually approach closer over time, and eventually try holding a handful of seeds.

Be patient and remain still, as this process may take days or even weeks for the chickadees to feel comfortable enough to feed from your hand.

What plants are helpful in attracting chickadees?

Native plants such as berry-producing bushes, seed-bearing flowers, and sunflowers are great for attracting chickadees. These plants provide both food and shelter for the birds.

Also, planting trees and shrubs that can serve as nesting sites or provide adequate cover from predators will make your yard more chickadee-friendly.

Watch a Chickadee Nesting Box Installation

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