During our stay at Grand Canyon National Park, Bob and I explored many sections of the South Rim Trail since we were supremely situated with our room at Maswik Lodge. After completing a guided Fossil Walk one morning, we continued along the Rim Trail towards Maricopa Point. In addition to providing excellent views of Bright Angel Trail from Lookout Point, the trail also affords suitable habitat for numerous birds in the Pinyon Pines and other shrubbery that grow tenuously at the edge of the Canyon. That is where we found this Mountain Chickadee.
When we first spotted the Mountain Chickadee, recognition of the species was immediate because it so resembles our Black-capped Chickadees in Ontario, Canada. The main difference is that Mountain Chickadees have a white eyebrow that is diagnostic.
In the dry mountainous regions of the western States, Mountain Chickadees are found in mixed conifer forests, pinyon-juniper or pine forests even at elevations above 12,000 feet.
This is an example of one of the Ponderosa Pines that grow along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
These soaring coniferous trees can reach heights beyond 250 feet (76 m), and together with the Pinyon Pines that grow in the region, they make up some of the habitat favored by Mountain Chickadees.
Mountain Chickadees usually forage very high up in the trees, so it is no wonder that they are seldom seen.
As Bob and I observed this specimen, it seemed undeterred and continued without interruption to glean insects and spiders from the twigs and crevices in the tree’s bark.
These acrobatic and highly agile birds dart quickly from branch to branch around the outside of a tree, and this Mountain Chickadee was no different. There, with the tree clinging to the edge of the Canyon, we only had views of the Chickadee where the Pine hung over the walking trail.
Mountain Chickadees supplement their diet with seeds and nuts with one of their favorites being Pine Nuts the same as those I purchase for use in salads.
Bob and I discovered for ourselves just how plentiful Pine Nuts are in the Park when we were out cycling on another day. Having pulled up for a rest beneath a Pinyon Pine tree, I picked up some cones and other red nuts in order to study them.
The cones were full of plump, rich nuts that were nestled in between each scale. Pine Nuts are pale and shaped somewhat like peanuts.
Given the abundance of Pinyon Pines at Grand Canyon National Park, it is no wonder that the Mountain Chickadees have plenty of food to stash away for the winter. It was a pleasure observing this cheerful little bird before we turned and walked back towards Bright Angel Lodge.
Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean