The black-capped chickadee is one of our most popular winter residents, especially welcomed at bird feeders. They are a non-migratory songbird found year-round in our local forests and throughout North America. Besides being down-right adorable, chickadees have evolved remarkable adaptations to withstand freezing cold weather.
Their active daytime behavior consists mostly of frantically collecting and eating seeds, berries, and insects. They are extremely proficient at storing food and remembering where the cache is. They spend each day eating enough high-fat food to gain at least 10 percent of their body weight.
The chickadee is one of the few birds that are capable of controlled hypothermia in order to reduce their body temperature and metabolism on cold nights. Shivering through the night to generate heat, they rely on daily accumulated fat reserves. By morning, these birds will virtually have no body fat left. This is equivalent to a 150-pound person gaining and then losing over 15 lbs everyday. Talk about a yo-yo diet.
They often roost in birch trees where they can excavate holes in soft, rotting wood. Finding a proper roost is just as important as finding food. Chickadees can literally squeeze themselves into a tiny cavity for maximum insulation and sometimes exhibit bent tail feathers when they emerge in the morning.
Chickadees have certainly mastered a very basic formula for winter survival. Don’t freeze and don’t starve.
How much does a chickadee weigh?
What seeds do they eat in the wild?
Why don’t their legs and feet freeze?