Black-Capped Chickadees Excavate A Nest In Thickson’s Woods
You know that spring has sprung when you see birds building their nests. One spring, at Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve in Whitby, Ontario, a pair of Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapilla) worked industriously to hollow out a cavity in a dead tree trunk, preparing to lay their eggs.
Thickson’s Woods is a mixed forest where many species of birds and animals live. It is ideally situated next to a wetland and meadows, so birds and animals find it very attractive.
A dead tree stands alongside one of the many trails through the woods, and Bob and I could see that recent activity had taken place there. A fresh hole was pecked into the side of the snag.
In fact, it appeared as though some bird had attempted to make a hole at three different locations on the side of the dead tree before settling on the spot nearest the top.
As Bob and I watched, the owner of the tree cavity came and landed on a nearby twig. Black-capped Chickadees usually excavate a cavity in a soft decaying stump, taking turns, although normally, the nest hole would be a bit lower than this one.
It was so interesting to watch the little fellow enter into the almost perfectly round nest hole,
disappearing from sight within its shadowed interior.
Over and over again, each of the black-cappedchickadees emerged from the nest hole with its beak full of shredded wood. When the nesting site is ready, the birds will use moss or bark fibers to construct the base of the nest, and soft materials such as hair and feathers to line it.
In our video, you will see chickadees excavating a nest cavity.
A Downy Woodpecker decided to make the same tree trunk its foraging grounds, which caused a temporary halt in the chickadees’ endeavours.
The softer wood of the now-dead tree is apt to harbour a variety of insects for the woodpecker to eat, in addition to being easier to penetrate with its beak. Perhaps that is why the chickadees selected this particular trunk, too.
Within moments, the black-capped chickadees were right back at it, in no way deterred by bird watchers from whom the chickadees often hand feed.
With its beak full of wood fibers, each chickadee flew away, carrying their load to some unknown destination. Some shreds often escaped their clamped beak and fell to the ground at my feet.
A black-capped chickadee usually lays between 6-8 eggs. What dedication it requires to hollow out a hole large enough to hold them when each effort results in such incremental progress.
The chickadees worked doggedly for the whole afternoon at Thickson’s Woods, but even we could see progress. By the time we left for home, each chickadee almost totally disappeared from view within the nest cavity. It wouldn’t be long before they would be laying their eggs.