Today I’m happy to say goodbye to January, which often seems like the longest month of the year. The holidays are past, it’s cold outside and it seems a long time until spring. Sitting by a cozy fire, wrapped up in a warm blanket sipping tea and reading books will get you through for only so long. You long for warm days when the sun hits your back, the feel of the good Earth in your hand.
Today we’ve had sunshine, but tonight there’s a chance of snow flurries. Oftentimes the weather reports predict them but they “miss it” many times. On the other hand, we may wake up to 5 inches of snow (it has happened before when it wasn’t predicted).
When I need a reminder that spring will return, I place my little oil painting of a Carolina Chickadee in plain view. The Chickadee happens to be my favorite songbird, and this painting with its sunny yellow background was a gift many years ago from my sister. It’s been a source of much enjoyment.
Speaking of Chickadees, I bought a bird feeder two weeks ago and hung it outside my kitchen window where I could have the best view from inside. Five days passed and not a single bird visited. I decided the feeder was hanging too low and moved it onto the limb of another tree. Three days passed and still no birds. I finally decided it was too near some evergreen foliage and moved it again.
Finally, I have small birds, including chickadees. They visit the feeder daily while some of the larger birds such as Blue Jays, Mockingbirds and Doves eat seeds that spill to the ground.
The Chickadee is a tiny bird (4-5 inches; 11.5–13 cm) with a distinctive body shape – a short neck and large head. They have a black cap and bib separated by stark white cheeks; the back, wings, and tail are soft gray.
Chickadee Feeding Behavior
The Chickadee is an inquisitive and acrobatic little bird. When outdoor feeders aren’t available, they hop along tree branches searching for food, sometimes hanging upside down or hovering. I’ve read they may make short flights to catch insects in the air. Insects form a large part of their diet, especially in summer; seeds and berries become important in winter. They sometimes hammer seeds on a tree or shrub to open them and also will store seeds for later use.
Except in the breeding season, associates with other Carolina Chickadees and a variety of other small species in feeding flocks that roam within a fairly large area. Despite being a flocking species, they normally space themselves fairly widely while eating.
These birds prefer forested areas, urban and suburban yards or parks with large trees. Their breeding habitat is mixed or deciduous woods in the United States from New Jersey west to southern Kansas and south to Florida and Texas; there is a gap in the range at high altitudes in the Appalachian Mountains where they are replaced by their otherwise more northern relative, the Black-capped Chickadee.
They are permanent residents here, not usually moving further south even in severe winter weather.
The most famous call is the familiar “chick-a-dee-dee-dee,” which gave this bird its name. This little call is music to my ears! Its song is “fee-bee-fee-bay.”
Coping with Cold Weather
Now here’s something interesting I learned: Carolina chickadees are able to lower their body temperatures to induce an intentional state of hypothermia called torpor. They do this to conserve energy during extremely cold winters. In extremely cold weather conditions they look for cavities where they can hide in and spend up to fifteen hours at a time in torpor; during this time they are awake but unresponsive; they should not be picked up and handled at this time, as the stress of being held may cause their death. I don’t know if other birds are capable of entering torpor or not.
Seems the Chickadees have found a way to cope with the cold weather! I'm sure they, like me, are happy to say goodbye to January and hope February weather will be somewhat nicer!
My sister has found a way to cope. She emailed me a picture of a new project she has begun -- a needlepoint canvas imprinted with Carolina Chickadees in a Pine Tree. Won't this be lovely in shades of blue and green?
I complain about the winter; she finds a constructive way to pass the time while being trapped indoors! I have decided to turn over a new leaf beginning tomorrow. No more whining; just get myself involved!
Are you tired of winter? How does your winter routine differ from other times of the year?
Do you place bird feeders outside your windows? If so, what kinds of birds do you attract?