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Maeve Kim

Jericho, VT, USA

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Injured Or Sick Black-capped Chickadee

We first noticed this chickadee, either ill or injured, ten days ago. When I first saw it, I thought part of the skin under the chin was torn away; it looked like a flap was rising and falling with a strong wind.

9 replies on “Injured or Sick Black-capped Chickadee”

Vanessa Bird Lover says:

There is a Black-capped Chickadee I befriended some time ago who eats from my hand. I call him ‘Blackie’. He was the most handsome chickadee I ever saw, he was extremely healthy and his colors were very bright, especially his dark, dark, dark black bib (hence the name Blackie). But after a while, he disappeared. He must have been gone for at least two months before I saw him again at my bird feeder. But he didn’t look the same at all. The top of his head was completely bald, his feathers were dirty and in some places missing, and he looked as if he was either very sick or attacked by a cat or something. I knew it was him 100% because he still had that deep black bib and his distinctive voice and he almost came to my hand, but he was shy. But Blackie still ate energetically and flew normally like he always did. Was he attacked by something? Was he sick? He still comes to my feeder and seems to be getting better (slowly).

Kathleen M says:

I wish I had an answer for you. I’m glad he came back and I hope he sticks around. I came here looking for a possible answer regarding one of the chicadees at my feeder. Yesterday I had the usual pair eating at the feeder when I noticed one looked stuck on the ledge. I once freed a sparrow who got his head stuck once. When I checked him i saw he wasnt stuck. It looked like he was napping but I knew he wasn’t.. I watched him closely for two hours until I literally saw him take his last breath and die. I was so upset. I had just opened a new bag of bird seed and I blamed myself. Maybe it was bad. I threw away all the seed I had and washed the feeder with a bleach solution. Today his partner is back. I’ll never know if any other birds died. Can a chicadee die right at the feeder like that after eating? It appeared that he never left the feeder after eating. Maybe he was sick already. I don’t know but it was awful to witness.

m**** says:

im so sorry about what happened it might have salmonella but its not common in chickadees from what I know, but its lethal for other small birds like goldfinches,
and our local audobon has never managed to save any pine siskins so it can be a lethal thing, we see fluffed up and labored breathing barely eating seed.

with love m****

I’m so sorry to hear both your stories and feel heart broken just reading about it. I fell in love with chickadees the day when one almost flew onto me while cleaning the feeders outside not realizing I was there at first but made the cutest confused chirp when the bird realized I was the there and did a 180 in the air to land on a tree by me instead. There’s 3 chickadees who have been around this winter and with these cold spells (artic vortex 30 below zero cold) , I will count the chickadees I see just to make sure they are all ok…I noticed today one of the chickadees was sitting still in a tree and wasn’t moving around actively like a chickadee normally would and repeating the same call at least 5 times…was chickadee calling out for help or calling out to the other chickadees, or what I don’t know….sounded like it’s typical chickadeedeedee call but seemed louder than usual… then after sitting still for five minutes, it randomly started flying to the feeder and back up to the tree with a seed like usual… was it coming out of its torpor state a chickadee goes in when decreasing it’s body temperature ten degrees to preserve energy, could the chickadee be hurt or sick, was chickadee calling for me to put out more food, I’m not sure but I hope my little guy is ok since seeing a chickadee be that sluggish concerns me. I will play reiki for my chickadees. If you youtube “rest relaxation reiki animals”, you’ll find a reiki video for healing animals that you can play around them to help the little cheep cheeps.

Marcia Luick says:

Hi Vanessa, I am so interested in what you described about your Blackie. I had a chickadee come to the feeder today looking exactly like you describe. I told someone about it and said it looked like it had been malled by a cat too. I am in the Western Mountains of Maine, by the way.

Calvin Burgess says:

We noticed a Black Capped Chickadee a few days ago at the feeder that appeared to be molting. The feathers on its back were fluffed. At first my thought was this one must have been in a fight or something. Yesterday evening I noticed it in the birdbath. It looked much smaller than other Chickadees in our area. This morning my wife went to clean the birdbath and noticed this same Chickadee sitting with its head partially tucked under one wing. When I went to investigate, the bird flew into a tree next to the birdbath. A short time later I noticed it was back in the birdbath. I approached the bird and was able to touch it. I tried to coax it into my hand but it flew to another tree several yards away. We are curious if this little bird is sick or has some other issue. All the other birds and Chickadees seem to be doing just fine.

Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

Hi Calvin, It’s hard to know for sure; this is the time of year when most birds molt, and it can require lots of energy. Our of an abundance of caution, we recommend treating it like a sick bird – Anytime you see a sick bird, it’s best to take your feeders down and clean them. Cleaning them and bird baths regularly (every 1-2 weeks) is the best way to prevent disease, even when you see no sick birds. You can learn more about bird diseases and how best to clean your feeders here. Please also note that it is against federal law to handle to treat wild birds without a federal permit. If you’re particularly worried about an individual, the best thing to do is to call a local wildlife rehabilitator before taking action. If you’re not sure who that is, your state’s wildlife office should have a list of rehabilitators that are federally certified.

Calvin Burgess says:

Update on the sick Chickadee we spotted a few days ago. Today my wife found it in the yard. It appears it had died a day or two ago.

Barbara T. says:

Hi Calvin. So sad about your Chickadee. Tonight I found one in our birdbath, fluffed up and with its head tucked under a wing, same as yours. It was occasionally sipping the shallow water.. Wasn’t sure if it was sick or a fledgling. After awhile it perked up and sat as talked to it. Then I observed it at a distance with the possibility of putting it in a box at a safer height. When two finches flew to the bird bath, it then flew into a nearby bush, then away. I’m cleaning my feeders tomorrow, but I also noticed that in spite of clean bird baths, one chickadee in particluar has been drinking out of the saucers/flower pots. I hope that we don’t find that this Chickadee died in our yard. I wonder if the water in a flower pot reservoir could cause it to be sick?

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