At Beaver Creek, Feed the Chickadees and Not the Chipmunks

Chickadees in a tree at Beaver Creek Saskatoon Meewasin

The Meewasin Valley is a massive space that stretches through Saskatoon and beyond. As such, it offers almost endless ways to enjoy its vast natural bounty. Spaces like the Northeast Swale, the Crocus Prairie, and the Saskatoon Natural Grasslands are prime spots to experience this firsthand.

But one of the most popular places in the entire Meewasin Valley is Beaver Creek Conservation Area and for good reason. Located just south of the city on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, Beaver Creek offers amazing opportunities to connect with nature and learn from the interpreters who work there.

A popular activity at Beaver Creek is feeding the adorable Black-capped Chickadees who live there. While that can be a lot of fun, visitors should not do the same for the equally adorable chipmunks and ground squirrels. It seems unfair but there are good reasons for this.

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Feed the Birds

Black-capped Chickadees are naturally curious birds who are investigative and interested in humans. These creatures are omnivores, which means that they eat seeds, insects, and occasionally meat. Even in the winter, half of their diet is made up of insects.

A pair of Chickadees Beaver Creek Saskatoon MeewasinChickadees begin caching seed in the fall and into the winter to eat later. They forget where many of their stashes are, so they need to keep a lot of seed caches handy just in case. As such, they do appreciate the handouts people offer during colder months and make good use of them.

There are just a few things to keep in mind when feeding the chickadees:

      • Be calm, still, and quiet. Let them come to you and treat them with respect.
      • Do not attempt to grab or pet the bird. These are still wild animals and should be treated as such.
      • Please do not place birdseed on your head as that encourages birds to land on peoples’ heads even if they are not feeding the birds. That can lead to big problems for the birds and for other visitors to Beaver Creek.
      • Black Oil Sunflower Seed is the preferred food choice for Chickadees. With their high-fat content, these seeds provide them with the calories and nutrients they need, and will also not germinate as an unwanted weed or invasive species in our conservation area.

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But Don’t Feed Their Furry Little Friends

Chipmunk begging for food Beaver Creek Saskatoon MeewasinThe reason why we feed the chickadees and not the chipmunks or ground squirrels is that the chickadees do not become dependent on humans as a food source. The unfortunate reality is that chipmunks and ground squirrels do become dependent on human handouts quite easily.

And it causes problems.

As surprising as this sounds, these small, furry animals can become quite aggressive once they identify people as a food source. Chipmunks and ground squirrels have razor-sharp teeth that can cause serious wounds if they bite. These animals may also carry dangerous diseases.

Humans feeding chipmunks and ground squirrels is the start of a dangerous cycle that can end poorly for both people and animals. In order to keep everyone safe, we ask that visitors only feed the Black-capped Chickadees. If you’re lucky, even the occasional White-breasted Nuthatch might stop by for a treat!

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