Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Gathering of Chickadees

It was an absolutely beautiful winter morning, clear and cool with a beautiful blue sky, as I walked on a road through a very heavily logged woodland. All along the road were patches of staghorn sumac bearing their clusters of red fruit –

Staghorn sumac typically grows in open areas, often along roadsides and reproduces by seed, usually scattered by birds, and root sprouts. The root sprouts often form dense colonies, all genetically identical since they originated from the same initial plant.

One of the colonies of sumac sprouts hosted a small flock of black-capped chickadees. The acrobatic birds were busy investigating the sumac seed heads –

When they found a seed that met their standards they would pluck it from the cluster, carry it to a nearby stem and, as they do with seeds at feeders, proceed to hammer it open


Interestingly, several weeks before I’d seen a flock of chickadees doing exactly the same thing on exactly the same colony of sumac. Were these the same birds? Within 100 yards along the edge of the road were several dozen colonies of sumac. But while some of the seed heads on this colony were picked clean of seed –

The seed heads on other colonies appeared to be totally intact –

Here's an opportunity for some research, why do black-capped chickadees seem to prefer one sumac colony instead of others oil content of the seeds, other nutrient content, color, flavor, mere repetition, will they feed on the seed heads of other sumac colonies after these are exhausted?

Throughout the winter staghorn sumac feeds not only chickadees; but also our resident woodpeckers: downy, hairy, red-bellied and pileated which feed on the seeds as do bluebirds, ruffed grouse, cardinals and at least two dozen other species.


The Furry Gnome said...

Great close-ups!

Marcia said...

I've often wondered why the chickadee and titmouse didn't evolve to have the same seed breaking beak of the cardinal?

eileeninmd said...

Hello, love the sweet chicakdees. Great photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend.

Adam Jones said...

Great pictures and a super little bird.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

How interesting! It's great to learn what they like and get a chance to watch them eat. They were hungry!

betty-NZ said...

Wow! Fantastic shots!!