Happy, friendly, energetic, hard-working, trusting, resourceful and strong enough to survive frigid, snow-packed winters…sounds like your typical New Brunswicker doesn’t it? It is truly fitting that these same characteristics belong to our provincial bird, the black-capped chickadee. These cheerful creatures are usually the first to offer a welcome greeting when you walk along paths in New Brunswick forests. Their black caps and bibs, white downy cheeks and blush-colored underbellies are unmistakable as they bob through the air from tree to tree.
Weighing the same as three pennies, it’s a wonder these masked birds are able to thrive at all throughout the winter months. During warmer months, they easily forage for insects, caterpillars and larvae but when these food sources are scarce, they have to extend substantial energy searching for berries and seeds. Did you know that by installing a bird feeder in your yard, your family can as much as double a chickadee’s chance of surviving the winter season?
Chickadees’ trusting and curious dispositions make them the ideal candidate for your backyard feeder. If you want to quickly win them over, stock up on black oil sunflower seeds and shelled unsalted peanuts, as these are favorites. Children can easily assemble a simple yet effective bird feeder using a pine cone, natural peanut butter and seeds. Natural peanut butter will certainly be a welcome treat during the winter months when increased fat production is very important for survival.
Be sure to place your feeders near a window so your whole family can enjoy these entertaining creatures as they visit. You will quickly notice they often “dine and dash”, grabbing a seed and quickly flying to a nearby branch to tuck their treasure away for safe keeping. They are resourceful in that they cache their food during the winter months, setting up a sort of “winter pantry” that they can revisit as needed. It has been observed that chickadees can remember up to a thousand spots where they have hidden food. What an amazing feat for such a tiny brain!
While you may set out to attract chickadees to your feeder, you will also be extending an open invitation to other New Brunswick winter birds: blue Jays, nuthatches, finches, cardinals and waxwings, just to name a few. Your family will quickly notice their varying physical characteristics, songs and calls, flight patterns and dispositions.
Many children find joy in documenting the sights they see by creating a simple nature journal with sketches and general observations. Whether left by the window next to their binoculars or attached to a clip board that joins you on hikes, these bird journaling pages are an easy way to get your little naturalist started. When a child documents their discoveries, it ignites a desire to explore and inspires a renewed interest in all of New Brunswick’s diverse and incredible wildlife. Let’s light the spark at home and see where it takes them!
“Let them once get in touch with nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life” – Charlotte Mason