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These Birds Laugh At The Cold—Chickadees Use All Kinds Of Tricks To Keep Warm
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 by eNature

Though any bird that survives winter in the North amazes those of us that depend on furnaces and warm blankets, the black-capped chickadee may be the most incredible of all winter survivors.

“Black-capped Chickadees have a wonderful assortment of adaptations for the winter,” said biologist Susan M. Smith, who has studied the black-capped chickadee as long as anyone. “Carefully hidden food items, dense winter coats, specially selected winter roost cavities, and perhaps most remarkable of all, the ability to go into nightly hypothermia, thus conserving large amounts of energy, greatly increases the chances of survival,” she said.

A Cold-blooded Bird?
The ability to go into regulated hypothermia actually lowers the chickadee’s body temperature in a controlled manner, down to about 12 or 15 degrees (F.) below their normal daytime temperature of 108 degrees (F.). This remarkable adaptation allows the bird to conserve almost 25 percent of its hourly metabolic expenditure when the outside temperature is at freezing. The lower the outside temperature, the more energy conserved, Smith found.

“Chickadees are not the suburban wimps that some people think they are, said wildlife ecologist Margaret Clark Brittingham. For three winters in Wisconsin, she kept track of 576 black-capped chickadees. She found that every winter morning chickadees had to replace the fat they used overnight. As the small birds struggled against starvation and stinging cold, they earned her respect, too. “They are tough survivors that live close to the edge of life,” she observed.

Have you seen Chickadees and other birds in your yard or garden?  How are they coping with the onset of cold weather?

We (and many of your fellow readers) enjoy hearing about what we’re all seeing out in nature!


More on Black-capped Chickadee from eNature's Field Guide »



Our Chickadees are quite spoiled, with a sizable brush pile and last years Christmas tree for cover, plus five feeders of various seeds, they are fat and sassy. I love to watch them fly back and forth between the feeders and the brush pile. They spend so much time in the air and such a small amount at the feeder,you would think they would starve to death.

Posted by A Diehl on 2/9

We have a large group of resident Chickadees who are regular visitors to our sunflower seed feeder. We love their various songs and friendly ways.  When other birds fly away when we fill the feeder, the Chickadees will come to see if we are doing it right!  Its fun having them around.

Posted by Charyl Haelewyn on 2/9

It’s 5:22 pm as I write this and we’re in the middle of a major snow/wind storm in Otis, MA.  There’s a single chickadee sitting at the feeder outside my window.  I’ve seen it for a few days now - it appears to be sick.  Its feathers aren’t smooth, its wings are a bit ajar from its body, it is fluffed up even when the weather doesn’t require it, and it often waits for the others in its flock to fly away before coming to the feeder. Perhaps the extra food late in the day will help it make it through the night. I hope to see it at the feeder tomorrow morning.

Posted by Diane on 2/9

Our feeders are filled with sunflower seeds, safflower seed and whole corn for the squirrels and larger birds. If the feeders are empty the chickadees fly right up to the window and look inside to see what is keeping me from ‘doing my job’ as the food lady. Very cheerful and uplifting to see these beauties at the feeders.

Posted by Deborah Brown on 2/9

I have had multiple generations of Chickadees coming to my feeders. With pines and brushes and 4 kinds of foods these little guys are darn spoiled. A few years back i put up my first Chickadee home. I was lucky tohave them start a family twice. The third year i was watching one wanting to start a nest but would just perch just outside the hole. I checkex the bird house and to my suprise thete was a bee hive in thete. Yikes. I cleaned it out but so far i had no luck of them wanting to start a nest. So ithrew it out.

Posted by Derek on 2/9

My family likes to take walks in the winter in western NY.  There are times when no wildlife is spotted other then the chickadees.  Can always count on them to show up.  Sometimes if you stop and just observe them they will get quite close.  Very photogenic.

Posted by Don on 2/10
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