Highly localized and seen only in low numbers, Mountain Chickadees are a treat at winter feeders in the Yukon.
Tagish and Carcross are the Mountain Chickadee hotspots of the Yukon, with ‘high numbers’ frequenting various bird feeders throughout the winter. Their range reaches as far north as Lake Laberge, and as far east as Teslin Lake. South, their range and densities increase all the way to the northern-most areas of Mexico. Major bird publication summaries such as North American Birds have highlighted sightings of as many as 3 Mountain Chickadees at a feeder in the Yukon. Christmas Bird Counts in Tagish and Carcross have reported as many as 10 of these chickadees in a day.
This was before winter 2013/14.
Feeder watchers in the southern lakes region observed a very unusual anomaly over this past winter, especially through November to mid-January. Mountain Chickadee numbers exploded – at some feeders, counts were as high as fifteen!
To document these numbers, I collected Mountain Chickadee sightings through November/December 2013 from as many Yukon feeders as possible, focusing on Tagish as a hotspot. A good number of reports came in, and the data proved that their abundance at feeders had soared to new levels. Some numbers were unconfirmed, but the collected data indicates that it is likely that Mountain Chickadees became more abundant than even Boreal Chickadees at Tagish feeders during the winter – something that has never been recorded in the community (and likely the Yukon) before.
I have lengthened and further developed my project since November. For the next 3-5 years, I will examine concentration, abundance, and breeding density/success of all three chickadees species throughout the Yukon with focus on Mountain Chickadees in the Southern Lakes Region.
The project involves community participation in the form of feeder watching and general observations year round, data sharing by the Yukon Bird Observatories in concern to chickadee migration through Teslin Lake, McIntyre Marsh, and Albert Creek, as well as sightings through the Yukon Bird Club.
Lastly, it involves monitoring of breeding populations and reproductive success. Some friends and I built specially-designed nest boxes which have been hung at various GPS-marked locations through Tagish for nest-monitoring purposes. This part of my project won’t officially begin until spring 2015, due to a late start.
My Mountain Chickadee project has been given the support of the Yukon Bird Club, and the Yukon Bird Observatories. The purpose of this project is to gain a better understanding of Mountain Chickadee movements, densities, range, and breeding success in the Yukon.
If you see/hear Mountain Chickadees anywhere in the Yukon, please contact me at email@example.com ! I would like to know the number of chickadees and their location, as well as any other noteworthy info. Photo or audio documentation if possible is strongly recommended. For those who see Mountain Chickadees at their feeders, I will need the following details:
- A count of all species of chickadees at your feeder (e.g. 2 Boreal, 3 Black-capped, and 1 Mountain Chickadee)
- The name of the community in which your feeders are located
- A brief description of the habitat surrounding your feeders (e.g. lake-side White Spruce forest)
- ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether or not you have had Mountain Chickadees at your feeders in previous years.
- The Date you saw these chickadees.
If you find nesting chickadees, (Mountain, Boreal, or Black-capped) please try your best to take a photo of the nest/birdhouse and chickadees, and send it to me along with the location of the nest, and the date you found it. If you know how many eggs/nestlings there are, please pass that info to me as well.
A note: If you do find an active nest, please do not disturb the parents. Wait until the parents have left for food or water before looking in the nest, and then be extremely careful not to disturb the chicks/eggs. Leaving the lid of a bird house open too long can release heat from inside and chill the nestlings, making them weaker and decreasing their chance at survival. It is best not to approach a bird house too closely at all, as your scent can lead predators such as weasels and squirrels to the nest.
Please contribute to this project: share your sightings with me and spread the word! If you know someone in the Yukon with a bird feeder, please let them know about this project. Community participation in feeder-watching and general observations in the field are key to learning more about the Yukon’s little-known Mountain Chickadees.
I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org , or you can send your sightings to the Yukon Bird Club at: email@example.com.
Beakingoff is on Facebook – ‘like’ my page and share your sightings there!
You can also find ‘Yukon Birds’ (Yukon Bird Club page) on Facebook.
Thank you very much for your support! 🙂
Below is a series of photographs that compare our three Yukon chickadee species. Notice that the Mountain Chickadee has a distinctive white ‘eyebrow’, and is over all grayer in colour.