by Jean Wyenberg
Chestnut Backed Chickadees are the only Chickadees found on Vancouver Island and they are the ones we see in the forests and at our feeders here on Gabriola. Chestnut-backed Chickadees favor dense, moist, coniferous forests. They can be found from the lowlands up to the tree line, wherever there is a wet, closed-canopy forest.
During the breeding season Chestnut-backed Chickadees are territorial, but they join mixed-species flocks in winter. They forage by hopping along twigs and branches and gleaning their surfaces or by probing into bark crevices for food. They often hang upside-down to get at the undersides of branches and needles. They readily come to seed and suet feeders. Indeed, if they regularly use a feeder and you get a bit slack and let it become empty, the Chickadees will most likely let you know in no uncertain terms!
Chestnut-backed Chickadees store food in the fall and retrieve it in winter. Insects, spiders, conifer seeds, and berries make up most of these omnivores' diets. They also readily eat suet and birdseed supplied by humans. Their flight is generally short and undulating, with flock members setting out to cross openings one at a time.
Much of the nesting biology of Chestnut-backed Chickadees is not well known. They are monogamous, and pairs may excavate their own nest cavity (in soft rotten wood) or may use an old woodpecker hole or other cavity, including artificial nest boxes.
During some winters Chestnut-backed Chickadees in colder climates may wander short distances, mostly as a result of food shortages. For the most part, however, they are permanent residents – and we are lucky to share our beautiful island with these delightful little birds!