From Nestling to Fledgling: What Do Baby Chickadees Eat?




Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

The unmistakable “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call heralds the presence of one of North America’s most endearing birds. But long before these agile little creatures master their signature call or flit from branch to branch, they have dietary needs that must be met to ensure healthy growth.

While mature chickadees might happily raid your feeders for sunflower seeds, their fledglings have a different menu altogether.

Journey with us into the nest as we unveil the dietary secrets of baby chickadees, ensuring these future songsters thrive in their earliest days.

Key Takeaways

  • Baby chickadees start out eating a diet of insects and other small invertebrates provided by their parents.
  • As they grow, their nutritional needs change, and they start to forage for food on their own.
  • Chickadees are small, energetic birds known for their acrobatic abilities and distinctive calls.

Understanding Chickadees

Chickadees are small, energetic birds that are a common sight in backyards across North America. There are several species of chickadees, including the black-capped chickadee, Carolina chickadee, and mountain chickadee. These birds are known for their distinctive calls and friendly personalities.

Chickadees are primarily insectivores, meaning they eat insects. They also eat seeds and berries, especially in the winter when insects are harder to find. Baby chickadees, like their parents, love to eat insects. They will consume almost any insect or arachnid they can catch.

Chickadees are known for their high metabolism and need to eat frequently. They have a special adaptation that allows them to store food in their brains, which helps them remember where they stored food for later. This adaptation is especially helpful in the winter when food is scarce.

If you want to attract chickadees to your backyard, consider putting up a bird feeder with sunflower seeds, peanuts, or suet. Chickadees are also attracted to water sources, so consider adding a bird bath or small fountain to your yard.

Baby Chickadees’ Diet

If you are raising baby chickadees, it is important to know what they eat to ensure their health and growth. Baby chickadees have a diverse diet that includes insects, seeds, fruits, and protein.

In the wild, chickadees eat a variety of seeds such as sunflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and peanuts. They also eat insects such as caterpillars, worms, spiders, flies, ants, moths, and larvae. Chickadees are known to eat black sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts from bird feeders.

Baby chickadees have a sweet tooth and love to eat fruits such as berries, pears, and apples. They also eat vegetables such as cucumber plants. If you are feeding baby chickadees, you can provide them with cut grapes, raspberries, strawberries, bilberries, cranberries, and other colorful berries.

To provide protein, you can offer suet, mealworms, boiled egg yolk, and rice cereal. You can also mix peanut butter with seeds or suet to make a high-energy food for them.

Feeding Process of Baby Chickadees

When it comes to feeding baby chickadees, the process is quite fascinating. The parents play a crucial role in providing the nestlings with the necessary nutrients to help them grow and develop. Here’s a closer look at the feeding process of baby chickadees.

Feeding by Parents

Both the male and female chickadees take turns feeding their chicks. They hunt for insects and spiders, which are the primary sources of food for their young ones. The parents use their sharp beaks to catch the prey and then bring it back to the nest to feed their chicks.

Feeding of Chicks

The chicks are fed a diet of digested and regurgitated food while they are in the nest. This process is known as “syringing,” and it helps the chicks digest the food more easily. The chicks are fed every 10-20 minutes, and they consume an enormous amount of food each day.

Hunting for Prey

As the chicks grow older, they become more active and start to hunt for their food. They are often seen following their parents around, trying to catch insects and spiders on their own. This process helps the chicks develop their hunting skills and prepares them for life outside the nest.


Nestlings are baby birds that are still in the nest. They are entirely dependent on their parents for food and care. The parents provide them with warmth, protection, and food until they are old enough to leave the nest.

Nesting and Breeding of Chickadees

If you want to attract chickadees to your backyard, it’s important to understand their nesting and breeding habits. Chickadees typically start breeding in the spring season after hatching. Females select their mate, and the pairs they bond can last for years.

Chickadees begin looking for potential nest sites towards the end of January or early February in certain areas. They prefer to nest in tree cavities, abandoned woodpecker holes, or birdhouses. They may also build their nests in unusual places such as mailboxes or between the slats of vertical blinds.

The chickadee nesting season usually lasts from March to June, depending on the location and climate. During this time, the female chickadee will lay her eggs, which are typically a shade of off-white with speckles of red concentrated at one end. The eggs are so tiny, measuring only 0.65 inches long and 0.59 inches wide.

Once the eggs are laid, the female will incubate them for about 12-13 days. After hatching, the nestlings will remain in the nest for another 18-21 days. During this time, both parents will work together to feed and care for their young.

If you want to provide a safe and comfortable nesting site for chickadees, consider putting up a nesting box in your backyard. Make sure the box is placed in a shaded area and is high enough off the ground to protect the chicks from predators. Chickadees prefer nesting boxes with a 1-1/8 inch entrance hole and a cavity depth of 6-8 inches.

Seasonal Changes in Diet

As the seasons change, so does the diet of baby chickadees. During the fall and winter months, their primary food source is seeds. One of their favorites is sunflower seeds, which are high in fat and protein. Chickadees are able to store food in their cheeks and in crevices in trees to eat later when food is scarce.

In the winter, black-capped chickadees often form flocks with other birds to increase their chances of finding food. They also have the ability to lower their body temperature at night to conserve energy.

In the spring and summer, the diet of baby chickadees shifts to include more insects and other small invertebrates. This is because insects are more abundant during these months and provide a good source of protein for growing chicks.

It’s important to note that the diet of baby chickadees can vary depending on their location and habitat. For example, chickadees living in urban areas may have access to different food sources than those living in rural areas.

Chickadees in Your Backyard

If you want to attract chickadees to your backyard, there are a few things you can do to make it a welcoming environment for them. Chickadees are small birds that are often found in wooded areas, but they can also be found in suburban neighborhoods and backyards.

One of the easiest ways to attract chickadees to your backyard is by providing a bird feeder. Chickadees love to eat insects, especially caterpillars, but they also enjoy seeds and nuts. You can provide them with sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet cakes. Make sure to keep the feeder clean and filled with fresh food.

Another way to attract chickadees is by providing a source of water. Chickadees need water for drinking and bathing. You can provide them with a bird bath or a small fountain. Make sure to keep the water clean and fresh.

If you have a garden in your backyard, you can attract chickadees by planting native plants and flowers. Chickadees love to eat insects that are attracted to flowers, such as butterflies and moths. You can also provide them with nesting materials, such as soft grasses and feathers.

In addition to providing food and water, you can also create a safe environment for chickadees. Keep your backyard free of pesticides and other chemicals that can harm birds. You can also provide them with shelter by planting trees and shrubs that provide cover.

Physical Development of Baby Chickadees

As a baby chickadee, you go through several stages of physical development before becoming a fully-grown adult. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect during your growth process.


At birth, you are born with a thin coat of downy feathers that are not yet fully developed. Over time, these feathers will grow and become thicker, providing you with the insulation you need to stay warm.

Growth and Development

During your first week of life, you will double your body weight. By the end of your second week, you will have grown all of your primary feathers, and your tail feathers will begin to grow.

Male vs. Female

It can be difficult to tell the difference between male and female chickadees, as they look very similar. However, male chickadees tend to be slightly larger than females.

Body Weight

As a baby chickadee, your body weight is a good indicator of your health and development. If you are not gaining weight at a steady rate, it could be a sign that something is wrong.


As you grow, your appearance will change. Your feathers will become more colorful, and you will develop the distinctive black cap that chickadees are known for.

Nutritional Needs of Chickadees

Chickadees have specific nutritional needs that must be met to ensure their survival. They require a diet that is high in fat and protein to provide them with the energy they need to forage, fly, and maintain their body temperature. Additionally, they require a variety of nutrients, including iron, to support their overall health.

Chickadees primarily feed on insects and other animal matter, which are an excellent source of protein and fat. They also consume seeds and berries, but these foods are less nutritious than animal matter. When feeding baby chickadees, the parents will collect and regurgitate a mixture of insects and seeds to provide their young with a balanced diet.

One of the most popular foods for chickadees is hulled sunflower seeds. These seeds are high in fat and protein, making them an excellent source of energy for these birds. Chopped nuts, such as almonds and peanuts, are also a nutritious food source for chickadees.

When providing food for chickadees, it is important to ensure that the food is fresh and free of mold. Moldy food can be harmful to these birds and can cause serious health problems. Additionally, it is important to provide a variety of foods to ensure that the birds receive all the nutrients they need.

Chickadees in Captivity

If you have a baby chickadee in captivity, you need to provide it with a diet that closely mimics what it would eat in the wild. This means that you need to give it a variety of foods that are high in protein and fat.

One option is to feed your chickadee boiled egg yolk, which is a great source of protein. You can also give it cereal food such as rice with seeds inside it for breakfast. For lunch, you might include fruits like strawberries (or other colorful berries) and bananas.

In addition to these foods, you can also give your chickadee insects. Mealworms and crickets are both great options. You can purchase these insects at your local pet store or online.

It’s important to note that you should never give your chickadee carrion or any type of meat. This can make them sick and even lead to death.

When it comes to seeds, chickadees love striped sunflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn. These can be purchased at most pet stores or online.

Lastly, it’s important to understand that chickadees digest their food differently than humans. They have a shorter digestive tract, which means that they can’t break down certain foods like we can. As a result, it’s important to provide your chickadee with a diet that is easy to digest.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do chickadees typically eat?

Chickadees are omnivores and will eat a wide variety of foods. In the wild, their diet consists of seeds, fruit, berries, insects, and even carrion. Baby chickadees, in particular, require a diet rich in protein and fat, so they can grow and develop properly. They typically feed on caterpillars, worms, spiders, and flies that their parents catch.

Do baby chickadees need water?

Yes, baby chickadees need water to survive. However, they get most of their water from the insects they eat. Adult chickadees will occasionally bring water to their chicks, but it’s not a regular occurrence. If you want to help baby chickadees, you can provide a shallow dish of water near their nest, but be sure to change the water frequently to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

How long do baby chickadees stay with their parents?

Baby chickadees stay with their parents for about three weeks after hatching. During this time, the parents will continue to feed and care for them until they are ready to leave the nest. After leaving the nest, the young chickadees will stay with their parents for a few more weeks as they learn how to fend for themselves.

What should I do if I find a baby chickadee?

If you find a baby chickadee that has fallen out of its nest, the best thing to do is to try to put it back in the nest if possible. If the nest is too high or otherwise inaccessible, you can create a makeshift nest by placing a small container with a soft lining near the original nest. However, it’s important to remember that baby chickadees are fragile and can easily become stressed, so it’s best to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for assistance.

How can I raise a baby chickadee?

Raising a baby chickadee is a difficult and often illegal task. In most cases, it’s best to leave baby chickadees in the care of their parents or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Attempting to raise a wild animal can be dangerous for both the animal and the person caring for it.

What is the typical lifespan of a chickadee?

The average lifespan of a chickadee is about 2-3 years in the wild. However, some chickadees have been known to live up to 10 years in captivity. Factors such as habitat loss, predation, and disease can all impact the lifespan of a chickadee.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest posts