A Tale of Two Chickadees

Black-capped Chickadee_Wenatchee-WA_LAH_3690While Black-capped Chickadees are familiar birds over the northern half of North America, Mountain Chickadees are a western specialty. True to their name, they care found at higher elevations from the Rockies westward to the Sierras and Cascades, and as far north as the Yukon.

Mountain Chickadees are also selective about their habitat, preferring to hang out in conifer forests. This is why we enjoyed them at our last house, where we were surrounded by ponderosa pines. Our current home is in a new neighborhood lacking mature trees. Hoping our old friends would still come and visit, we included two fairly large Austrian pines and a dwarfed cultivar of a limber pine, (Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’) in our new landscape. It took three years, but the birds are finally here.

Mountain Chickadee_BlkForestCO_20100324_LAH_1145


Telling the Boys from the Girls

black-headed-grosbeak_santaritalodge-maderacynaz_lah_1792c8x10fil-sMale ducks don’t look anything like female ducks, at least during the breeding season. And you can easily tell the boy Black-headed Grosbeaks (right) from the girls (below)… in fact, they don’t look like they even belong to the same species! But with lots of birds, from Steller’s Jays to Canada Geese, it seems that only they know who is who.


I’ve often wondered just how they do that. What is it that tells male Red-tailed Hawks who the ladies are? How do California Gulls avoid courting a gull of the same sex? Well, I just read some fascinating articles that solved this mystery, at least when it comes to Black-capped Chickadees.