How Chickadee Flocks Avoid Traffic Jams at Your Feeder

Turns out there's an orderly process to all of that flitting back and forth.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


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Whether Mountain Chickadees in the Rockies, Black-caps in New England, or Chestnut-backs in the Northwest, chickadees are always worth watching at your feeder. If you’ve laid out a fine feast of sunflower seeds, you’ll see them come in, quickly grab a seed, and fly away. If you watch carefully, you’ll see one land nearby, open the seed, and eat the juicy and nutritious kernel within. 

Now keep watching that chickadee. It may return immediately, but it’s more likely to wait its turn. When a whole flock of chickadees moves into your yard, it looks as if they form a living conveyer belt. One chickadee after another, flies to the feeder and then leaves with a seed. 

When they find a concentrated supply of food, such as a tray of sunflower seeds, the birds are better off taking their turns than all coming in at once and squabbling over the seeds. Nature seems to prefer order to chaos.  And we have much to learn from the chickadees. 



Call of the Black-capped Chickadee provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by R.S. Little and S.R. Pantle.

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Narrator: Mary McCann

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2015 Tune In to     January 2018