The chickadee is described in “Birds of America” as the “feathered small boy of the woods,” and of bird feeders, I would add.
I learned to recognize it, to name it, when I too was a small boy. It was one of the first, perhaps the first bird to come to the bird feeder SPT GNDad helped me make and hang outside our dining room window.
Chickadees are active, little birds, only slightly larger than a house wren. They’re gray above with white-edged wing feathers, white below and have a black cap, white cheeks and a black bib. They’re as easy to recognize as a robin, a cardinal or a blue jay. They’re common, too.
I saw them in the trees around our house, in trees of our neighborhood in other neighborhoods, and in trees along the river where I went fishing with Dad and Grandpa.
I learned to recognize a chickadee by its song as well as its appearance. By its songs. First, it told me its name, chicak-a-dee-dee-dee. Often it omitted its first name, calling only dee-dee-dee. It also whistled, a high, thin, whistled fee-bee or fee-bee-eee.
I learned to imitate that whistle, and when I did, chickadees often answered and gathered in the branches of trees around me.
That chickadee, the one I learned when I was a boy, was the black-capped. Its range, summer and winter, is the northern half of the United States and the southern half of Canada, from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, and in the West north to Alaska. Chickadees live all across North America. To the south is the Carolina, to the north is the boreal, and in the West is the mountain chickadee. All are similar in size and appearance.