Chickadee Chatter

I learned this game while working at the Vivian Outdoor Resource Centre.

Equipment: Bird seed, situpons or other suitable spot markers, one for every two players

Explain to your girls that chickadees make four different calls:

  1. In the fall and throughout most of the winter, they will call out CHICK-A-DEE-DEE-DEE, CHICK-A-DEE-DEE-DEE, CHICK-A-DEE-DEE-DEE. This call is a message to neighbouring chickadees that means Hey, guys, I found some food and I would like to share it with you.

  2. In the late winter and early spring, the males in the area will change their start to try and attract a female to mate with. To do this, they begin a call that sounds like FEE-BEE, FEE-BEE, FEE-BEE. Roughly translated, this means Im single and Im available.

  3. Once nesting begins, the chickadee pairs prefer to have some privacy. They warn intruding birds that this is their nest site, by calling CHICK-A-DEE-BOO, CHICK-A-DEE-BOO, CHICK-A-DEE-BOO. This roughly translates to this is our nest, please find your own area.

  4. The final call is one that is used to confuse a hawk that may be in the area. It is their defence call. By calling CHICK-A-DEE-DEE-DEE-DEE-DEE-DEE-DEE-DEE-DEE-DEE etc., the birds make it very difficult for the hawk to zero in on one bird; this in conjunction with remaining very still ensures the survival of the individual birds.

To play the game, lay out the situpons in a suitable location (eg., open field, forest with little undergrowth). Give a bag of birdseed to several of the leaders; they play the role of birdfeeders. Explain to the girls that when you call out CHIC-A-DEE-DEE-DEE, they have to call it out and visit as many birdfeeders as they can (the whole time, they are calling out the CHICK-A-DEE-DEE-DEE song). At some point, you will call out FEE-BEE, FEE-BEE, and FEE-BEE. Girls then have to find a partner, and a nest site (situpon). To reserve a nest site, birds must place one of their feet on the situpon. The first time the nesting takes place, there will be plenty of sites, but as the game continues, remove some site (a little like humans cutting trees down). Continue with the game by cycling through the different calls. If you call out HAWK. The birds must freeze, and call the defence call. Any bird who moves while there's a hawk in the area becomes lunch! Continue cycling through the calls, and while the girls are collecting food you should remove several of the nest sites and then call FEE-BEE etc. When nest sites become scarce, any chickadee approaching a taken nest will be warned off by the CHICK-A-DEE-BOO, etc. call. Some birds may find that they do not have a place to nest, as a result of human impacts on the environment.

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