Our Winter Chickadees

life_in_maine_bird_feeder2The black-capped Chickadee, Parus atricaillus, is found though out the Northern US from Alaska to Maine. It is the Maine State bird—you see the image of these amazing animals on the our car license plates. They get their name from their call: chick-a-dee-dee-dee. A tame and inquisitive bird, they can get very protective of their garden and are quite vocal when they think you should not be there.

A Chickadee is about 4.75–5.75 in. (12–15 cm) in length, and 0.35–0.42 oz. (10–12 grams) in weight. These birds spend the entire year in Maine, including the winter. To survive the cold, the Chickadee needs to feed during the day to gain fat to use through the night for energy. But with very precious fat reserves, they drop their body temperature by 17°F–21°F (10°C–12°C) to conserve that energy while they sleep. Their plumage is also a far more efficient insulator than on many birds their size. Chickadees do not build winter shelters, but find small places to roost overnight—their tails can appear bent from spending the night in a cramped spot. Naturally, our (their?) bird feeders are never without a Chickadee this time of year.