Shortly after a successful brood of Black-capped Chickadees fledged one of our nestboxes on June 19th, signs began to point toward a second nesting attempt in the same box. Here's a photo journal of that nesting attempt, from nest building to fledge day. I hope you enjoy!
The first sign that chickadees in the area were still breeding was when we saw nesting material being gathered again. Here's one pulling some alpaca fiber on June 21st. Soft fiber like this usually makes up the top layer of a chickadee nest.
On July 8th, there was still nest material gathering going on, with a chickadee taking advantage of strips of bark coming off an aging trellis. A NestWatch check that day revealed 4 eggs covered carefully with soft nesting material.
Though the eggs were no longer covered by nesting material, mom was still out gathering tufts of alpaca. Over the next week, temperatures became quite warm for our area (in the low 90s). That took some pressure off mom who didn't need to spend as much time sitting on the eggs.
By 5:30pm on hatch day, 4 of the 6 eggs had hatched. The chicks are totally naked and blind and it would be up to mom to keep them warm. The hot weather had broken and temperatures were now only in the mid-70s.
By July 28th, I found 6 hungry mouths in the nest! Temperatures had turned even cooler (an unseasonable 65 degrees and damp to boot), so I started putting out live mealworms in a feeder. This would help the parents out as they feed their babies a steady supply of insect protein.
Here's mom chickadee getting ready to bring an insect into the nest. Adult females will do a wing quiver behavior toward the male during incubation and during the first half of the nestling phase. (Source: Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior)
And here they are 4 days later on August 5, with even more feathers emerging. Their eyes still look closed, and you can definitely see a difference in the development of the chicks. The two at the top have their black cap and more feather development than the chick at the bottom. There are still 6 nestlings in there, just hidden underneath.
The weather remained cool and the chickadee parents were very happy accepting our offers of mealworms. On two occasions, when the mealworm feeder was empty, we've had a chickadee parent bring this fact to our attention by perching on the Adirondack chairs on the front deck!
By August 9, some of these chickadees look ready to go! What a change from only 4 days ago!! In our yard, chickadees fledge an average of 19 days after hatching, so these chicks are only about 3 days from leaving the nest. This was my last peek into the nest - any later and these babies may fledge prematurely.
Just as expected, the chickadees started to fledge on August 12th, at around 11:00am. I missed the first, but did capture #2 and #3 on video, taking their first flight. A parent flies by the box at :06 and visits the box at :10. The first chickadee leaves at :25 and the second at 1:12. Listen for the encouraging "fee bee" calls of the parents.
It took nearly 3 more hours for the last of the nestlings to gather the courage to leave the box and at 2:00pm, he flew the proverbial coop. (I missed it - I was off chasing some other unknown bird!) He did bring some drama to the event though. For nearly an hour, the last chickadee was in the nest alone, coming to the opening, calling for his parents. And for that entire hour, the parents never made a stop at the nest. Since I was not there to see him fledge, I don't know if he went out on his own or if he was encouraged by parents.
Either way, when I returned to the box, I heard him calling from deep within a shrub right behind the nestbox. After locating him, I left the area so the parents could return. He stayed there for another hour calling, with no parents in sight. It was SO tempting to try to do something, but I remembered the advice we give folks all the time, "no one can give better care than the parents." I had to stay away so the parents would return to the area.
And true to form, the parents did return with a mouthful of mealworms for the last little fledgling, bringing a happy ending to a successful nesting attempt.