Anyone that feeds birds in the Peach State is familiar with the Carolina chickadee. This feathered sprite is a regular visitor to our backyard feeders where it invariably selects a single sunflower seed on each of its countless visits throughout the day.
The bird’s fondness for these oil-rich seeds will lead you to believe is its main source of food. In truth, the Carolina chickadee’s diet varies from season to season. It seems that berries, fruits, and seeds do make up the bulk of its diet during the winter. However, during the warmer months insects and spiders make up a large portion of its diet. Among all of the various invertebrates consumed by this chickadee, caterpillars often make up the bulk of animal portion of its diet.
CAROLINA CHICKADEE CARRYING A CATERPILLAR TO ITS HUNGRY YOUNG
The importance of caterpillars to Carolina chickadees is dramatically illustrated by research conducted on their nesting habits. According to the National Audubon Society, one study found that a pair of chickadees feeding a brood of four to six young fed the rapidly growing youngsters in excess of 9,000 caterpillars before they left their nest. Can you imagine what it takes for a pair of chickadees to find and feed 9,000 caterpillars to their young in the 14-16 days they are in the nest?
I guess that helps explain why we do not see Carolina chickadees around our feeders as often while they are nesting.