by Sandy Swegel
Chickadees are out and about on warm winter days. They are the tiny white birds with black heads that are flittering and chirping vocally on sunny January days. I often see them in the top branches of evergreens.
Chickadees are small birds that don’t migrate but hunker down in tree cavities to survive the winter despite their tiny bodies. You can have lots of chickadees in your garden if you keep a simple tube feeder with seeds (they love black sunflower seeds.). You can also feed them with your garden by leaving the seed heads on all the plants for the chickadees to sit on or hunt and peck for. Chickadees need a lot of food …. the eat about a third of their body weight per day.
And that is why you want them to live in your garden. They may rely on seeds in winter but come early spring and mating time, they get about 80% of their diet from insects. They eat so many insects, some wildlife fans call them the pest exterminator of the forest. And their favorite insect? Aphids! Tiny aphids are the perfect food for tiny chickadee beaks. The birds are very systematic and will cling to a plant stem eating one aphid after another until they clear the entire stem. In spring before your plants are even sending up new stalks, the chickadees will pick in leaf litter finding the baby aphids just as they hatch or even just eating the yummy aphid eggs.