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Black-capped Chickadees Starting to Build Nests

3-13-15  black-capped chickadee and Emma's hair 067At least two to four weeks before one would expect to find a black-capped chickadee building a nest, one was busily collecting hairs shed by my chocolate lab yesterday. In addition to fur, chickadees line their nest with grass (not available yet here), down and moss (hard to come by with two feet of snow still on the ground). Chickadees are able to nest this early in part because they nest in cavities, which offer them protection from the elements. Not having bills strong enough to hammer out cavities in living trees, chickadees rely heavily on rotting stumps for nest sites — the wood in them is punky and easy to remove. Birch, poplar and sugar maple snags and stumps are preferred nesting trees. If you want to provide chickadees and other birds with nesting material, take advantage of the fact that dogs and cats are shedding now, and recycle their fur.

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16 responses

  1. Wonderful! Please thank Emma for her contribution of hair!

    March 13, 2015 at 9:14 am

  2. Wendy Everham

    Also cat hair! And what about dryer lint?

    March 13, 2015 at 9:35 am

  3. Leonard & Meredeth Allen

    Wonderful photo, Mary, of one of my favorite birds! Had no idea that they’d be thinking of parenthood in this still so snowy landscape! Meredeth Allen

    March 13, 2015 at 9:55 am

  4. Patsy Mathews

    What is the chickadee perched on? This is a great picture!

    March 13, 2015 at 10:00 am

    • A rod I have attached to a tree that you hang a feeder from!

      March 13, 2015 at 6:03 pm

  5. Patsy Fortney

    I took these last spring–thought you might like to see them, given your post this morning.

    March 13, 2015 at 10:07 am

  6. Diane

    I have been saving my long haired cat’s fur collected from the brush. Was thinking about putting it out this morning.

    March 13, 2015 at 10:18 am

  7. Jane Lucas

    This one is really interesting. Read about how chickadees like dog fur for their nests. Nice and cozy!!!

    March 13, 2015 at 11:26 am

  8. Michal Brownell

    Really, Mary, I know you are burdened by e-mails, even ones refusing an answer*, but I can contain myself no longer: I love, love, love your blog. With the entire world so out of control and full of despair, it is better than any food or prayer (high praise from me, indeed). Thank you, thank you, Now I have to go get a dog so those poor chickadees can build their nests. Hope someday Pam will introduce us. Meanwhile, Much thanks and admiration. Michal Brownell AKA Friend of Pam Vaughan

    * That means me

    March 13, 2015 at 11:31 am

    • Hi Michal,
      You have no idea how much your comments mean to me. Posting on a blog is so different from environmental ed. where you get immediate feedback. I really appreciate knowing there are folks out there who are fascinated by the same things I am. Hopefully the word will spread and maybe even in a minute way contribute to saving this earth…grand thought, but that’s what I’m working toward! Hope we do meet – Pam’s parents were like my second parents!

      March 14, 2015 at 12:11 pm

  9. Marilyn

    Chickadees aren’t offended by “predator” smell?
    [I heard barred owls for the first time last night, very close. The hooting didn’t go on long, so I may have not heard it earlier.]

    March 13, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    • Marilyn

      Technically that should be “odor” rather than “smell!”

      March 13, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    • Wendy Everham

      My offering – a mixture of dryer lint and cat hair – was gone within 8 hours (on a still day placed on top of my frozen compost pile) here in midcoast ME where we still have at least 3′ of ice crusted snow.

      March 15, 2015 at 4:42 pm

  10. Wow, I didn’t realize they build nests so early. I will brush the animals and get my offering out early. I hang mine in a net onion bag for easy plucking, but have never done it so early. Thanks for the post, Mary.

    March 13, 2015 at 9:14 pm

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