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  • Writer's pictureLisa Davis

Three Chickadee Tales

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped Chickadees, those lively little black and white birds that frequent feeders year round, are a favorite of mine. They may be my spirit animal because they keep coming into my life. Spirit animals are said to guide us, teach us, or bring us messages. So what are they trying to tell me?


This is the story of the first one, which was quite a few years ago:

You know how cats often bring their humans dead animals as “gifts?” Our cat Minx often brought us live ones. On quite a few occasions she entered the house with a mouse in her mouth, and then dropped them at our feet. The mouse would skitter away in a mad panic as we gave chase. Twice she brought us small garter snakes, and she wasn’t pleased when I returned them to the garden. Once it was a chickadee.

My husband Mark had learned not to let her into the house without checking her mouth first. I had not. I did not see it until she proudly lifted her head to show me what she had brought. Aghast, I grabbed her and I pried her jaws apart. The bird fell to the floor, hopped up, and shot into the air. I snatched up the cat, corralled her in the cellar, and Mark and I gave chase. The panicked bird flew up stairs and we eventually trapped it in the kids’ bathroom. It fled to the end of the room into the bathtub enclosure and we whipped the shower curtain closed.

For the first time ever, I was happy to see a heap of dirty clothes on the floor. Mark grabbed a t-shirt, opened the shower curtain a crack, and tossed the shirt over the bird like a net. I reached gingerly under the shirt, and wrapped my fingers around the struggling bird. Back down the stairs we dashed. I flung open the front door, opened my fingers, and off it sailed.


This is the second story, which was also quite a few years ago:

When our daughter was a young teenager, she brought a chickadee home. She had found it, injured but alive, sitting on our neighbor’s side porch steps. It couldn’t fly, and one leg curled up underneath it, useless. She made it a cozy bed in a cardboard box, with water and sunflower seeds close at hand. She was determined to nurse it back health.

She named him(?) Pedro, and he would eat from her hand, perch with one leg on her shoulder, and lived with us four days before I looked online and realized it was illegal to care for a wild bird, even if one was attempting to save its life.

We found a wildlife rehabilitation center in a nearby town, and they determined Pedro had a broken leg and wing, which they splinted. They told us they would call us when he was ready to rejoin the wild so we could watch him fly away. They must have gotten too busy, because they didn’t. We never did find out his fate, but I still think about him.


And this is the third chickadee tale:

Minx and I both jumped and dashed to the sliding glass door when we heard the thud. We knew it was a bird crashing into the glass. Usually it was a sturdy mourning dove that was spooked by a hawk and left behind a few fine feathers and an imprint, but then flew off. This time, a small black-capped chickadee sat in the snow. Minx immediately began chirping and trilling as her butt wiggled and her tail swished.

“You’re not going outside,” I scolded. The bird sat upright with its belly resting in the snow, but didn’t move.

I yelled to my husband, who was in the den reading the news on his computer. “A chickadee crashed into the window and it’s sitting in the snow. What should I do?” I stood and watched for a moment. Although I don’t always follow the speed limit and usually roll through one particular stop sign on our road, I’m mostly a law abiding citizen. But I now knew it was illegal to bring a wild bird into my house. I stood wringing my hands. Mark came and looked out the window. The bird blinked several times, but otherwise remained still.

Mark is always a law-abiding citizen, and wandered back to the den. I kept my eye on the bird. After 5 minutes, which seemed like an hour, I yelled again to Mark. “It’s going to freeze to death sitting in the snow. I’m going out there.”

“What are you going to do with it?”

“I don’t know, but I have to do something!”

I opened the door, crept up to the chickadee and bent close. It blinked and swivel its head toward me. “You poor thing,” I murmured. “Are you okay?” I inched my hand forward and gently stroked its feathers. It didn’t try to fly or hop away. I gently wrapped my fingers around the bird, and it made no attempt to escape. I stood a moment, sheltering it in my hand, thinking it might be in shock, and if I could warm it a little it might fly away. I walked over to a garden bench and opened my hand to encourage its departure. No luck.

I carried it inside and called Mark to come look at it. He did, shrugged, and went back to the den. I carried it around, cupped in my hand, and spoke softly to it. Five minutes later, it fluttered its wings. I ran and shoved the door open, raised my hand to the sky, and the chickadee took flight.

“The bird flew away!” I shouted. Mark bolted out of the den, wild-eyed, with his head swiveling from side to side as he scanned for an escaped bird.

“No. Outside. It flew away outside. I saved it!” I grinned, clapped and did a little happy dance.

He stared at me.

I attempted to look contrite. “I’m sorry. I should have been clearer, but I was too excited,” He sighed and shook his head.


Were these encounters with my spirit animal? If so, what was their message?

Despite being eco-conscious, donating to environmental causes, reducing, reusing and recycling, I suffer from existential guilt because I am hurting Mother Earth because I drive a car, use plastic, and leave a carbon footprint. I also have big windows and let my cat go outside. But I don’t think the chickadees were messengers to make me feel guiltier than I already do.

I think their message may have been as simple as: be kind and do something to help those in need that have been placed in our path.

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