Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014!

Happy New Year, Everyone!  And, what better way to start a year than a post about my favourite little birds - Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus)

Who hasn't held out a handful of sunflower seeds, hoping a friendly, curious little chickadee will momentarily perch on a finger while taking a seed?  Or, smiled on hearing the familiar chickadee-dee?  (I suppose the non-nature lover types haven't, but those people aren't likely to be here reading anyway).

As familiar one is with this perky little bird, All About Birds has some Cool Facts, you might not know.  

- The Black-Capped Chickadee hides seeds and other food items to eat later. Each item is placed in a different spot and the chickadee can remember thousands of hiding places.

- Every autumn Black-capped Chickadees allow brain neurons containing old information to die, replacing them with new neurons so they can adapt to changes in their social flocks and environment even with their tiny brains.  

(It is quite probable that I, too, have allowed my brain neurons to die en masse, yet don't seem to have replaced them.  I do not recall much of anything useful anymore and don't adapt as easily to change as I used to.  I certainly wouldn't remember where I stashed any great number seeds.  Oh, to be a 'tiny-brained' chickadee!).

- Chickadee calls are complex and language-like, communicating information on identity and recognition of other flocks as well as predator alarms and contact calls. The more dee notes in a chickadee-dee-dee call, the higher the threat level.

- Winter flocks with chickadees serving as the nucleus contain mated chickadee pairs and non-breeders, but generally not the offspring of the adult pairs within that flock. Other species that associate with chickadee flocks include nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, creepers, warblers and vireos. (No warblers or vireos in winter here in the Canadian prairies - not for long, anyway.)

- Even when temperatures are far below zero (F), chickadees virtually always sleep in their own individual cavities. In rotten wood, they can excavate nesting and roosting holes entirely on their own.

- Most birds that associate with chickadee flocks respond to chickadee alarm calls, even when their own species doesn’t have a similar alarm call.

Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion is just about my favourite birding book and constant reference tome.  BUT, I must take issue with Mr. Dunne in regard to his comments about Black-capped Chickadees.  He describes them as: portly and robust.  All right, that's fair enough.  However, when comparing them with the Carolina Chickadee he says:
 "Black-capped is a larger, more contrasting, more disheveled-looking chickadee than Carolina"
"Black-capped looks like a scruffy ruffian of a chickadee; Carolina looks like a nice, well-groomed, well-bred chickadee"
Oh, puh-leese.  Those Southern Belle Chicks wouldn't last a minute Up HerePfffttttt!

Information sources:

All About Birds
Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion


  1. I never thought of them as fat. But busy oh yes. Fun post. Though I wonder where I can get some more neurons....:)

    1. If you find a neuron replacement store, please let me know.