By Bob Walker
The Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) is a small and busy little bird, which can be seen almost any day of the year from the observation room at the nature center. They love to fly from the pine trees over to the feeders, grab a small seed, and then fly back to the tree to eat the seed. There are many species of chickadees in North America, but the Mountain Chickadee is the only one that has a white eyebrow, that stripe of white between the black eye stripe and its black cap. Like other chickadees, the Mountain Chickadee sports a black bib under his chin. The Mountain Chickadee is pretty much the only species of chickadee we see in Los Alamos County, unless you hike down to the Rio Grande, where you might be lucky enough to spot a Black-capped Chickadee in the riparian areas near the river.
The Mountain Chickadee can be a spring trickster. Two years ago, on April Fool’s Day 2014, local birder Dave Yeamans posted a picture (below, left) of a “Yellow-breasted” Mountain Chickadee to the PEEC Birders Interest Group. Dave saw the bird along the road to the Reservoir. Then, just this spring, on 4/2/2016, Craig Martin posted another sighting (below, right) of the novel bird, in the picture below right, of a bird he also saw in Los Alamos Canyon. Could it be the same bird?
Craig Martin explains, “The Bluestem Willow male plants are producing yellow pollen in great quantities, which attracts a small native bee. [The bee] brings in the Mountain Chickadees, who feed on the bees attracted to the flowers!”
Mountain Chickadees have a very distinctive “chick – a – dee – dee” call, which everyone should learn to recognize – here is a New Mexico recording.
Other interesting articles about the Mountain Chickadee can be found on these web pages: identify.whatbird.com and allaboutbirds.org. Enjoy more beautiful photos of Mountain Chickadee at the Brian Small and Glenn Bartley web sites.