The big tease is on! Several species of birds are acting like they want to nest in the yard. A pair of black-capped chickadees seem to be competing with a pair of red-breasted nuthatches for a nesting box, and the male downy woodpecker appears to be guarding a potential nesting hole in one of the backyard trees. All of them are in the yard now, as I write.

Over the past few weeks the biggest tease has been the black-capped chickadee! There are two potential nesting boxes. The chickadees are going in and out of each, but one of them seems to be preferred. So it is in and out, in and out, but they never take any nesting material inside. Occasionally, they will carry out a few wood shavings from the floor of the box. About every third day the red-breasted nuthatches pop by to check on the boxes. They too, go in and out, and in and out, taking out a few wood shavings each time. Coincidentally, the black-capped chickadees are usually checking them too. Then, the chase is on! Round and round they go until one of the species tires of the chase and flies away. The black-capped chickadee usually quits the chase first, but once the red-breasted nuthatches leave the yard, the black-caps return to feed at the feeders and to continue their nest box check.

To date, though, neither species has committed to taking up residence in the yard. In addition, their house checks are sporadic. So the question is will they or won’t they nest in my yard this year? If they just didn’t tease and got busy with home renovations! The most likely candidate for homeownership is the black-capped chickadee. It is a daily visitor.

Black-capped chickadees are cavity nesters, but they take readily to nesting boxes. So there is hope for mine! Both birds work on the excavation, but only the female builds the nest, per se. The nest is cup shaped and the outer shell is made of materials such as moss. The inside lining is made of very soft materials.

The red-breasted nuthatch, on the other hand, while also being a cavity nester does not always take to nesting boxes. They will nest in a box, but it seems rare, according to some scientists. One citizen scientist that I know built a box that looked like a tree with a knot hole. A pair of red-breasted nuthatches took to the box almost immediately. It was used by this species for three years in a row.

Black-capped chickadees frequent feeders all year round. They are thought of as being cute by many and so are enjoyed by those who put up feeders. Their favorite foods are black oil seeds and suet, but they also eat insects, berries and some plant material when available. Chickadees hide food in places for later. According to scientists, they can remember thousands of hiding places.

Nuthatches also eat seeds and will come to feeders, especially in fall and winter when their favorite insects and arthropods are not as readily available.

It is late afternoon now. The black-capped chickadees are still teasing me with their antics. Deep in thought now as I gaze out the window… they are once again inspecting the nesting box! Will they nest or won’t they? Will the red-breasted nuthatch succeed in keeping the chickadees away and nest there instead? Your guess is as good as mine!

”Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available at the Chinook Observer, Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Center.

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