Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the April 22, 2012 Newsletter issued from the woods of the Loess Hill Region a few miles east of Natchez, Mississippi, USA

Carolina Chickadee, POECILE CAROLINENSIS, possibly hold-hammering, but with beak open

Above you can see two shots of the same Carolina Chickadee. The top view shows him, head blurred with movement, possibly "hold-hammering" -- with his beak pounding something held between his legs. Hold-pounding is a behavior known to occur among chickadees and titmice. The idea is to beat something until it's edible. I read that by hold-hammering they can open hazelnuts in about 20 minutes.

What surprises me about the photo is that the bird is pounding with his beak open. Also, I can't see anything being pounded. The bird kept doing this for about a minute, and all my pictures show him with his beak open -- except for the bottom one, when he wasn't pounding.

Maybe he's doing something besides hold-hammering. I hope that someone out there can shed light on what's going on here.

While we have these pictures before us, Northerners who have Black-capped Chickadees instead of our Carolina ones will notice that our birds have little or no white streaking in their wings. Black-caps do and that's one way to distinguish them. Black-caps are also larger, but in the field it's hard to see relative sizes.