The World of the Black-Capped Chickadee
The black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus in scientific parlance) is a wholly remarkable bird. Their boldness, constant sweet-sounding chatter, willingness to take seed from a hand and tolerance of close company with humans makes this avian endearing. Their feathers are reminiscent of the crystalline structure of snowflakes. However, the plumes are not so rigid, and they drape the little birds’ body in a soft, airy veil. Little puff-balls.
Walk into a wood full of black-capped chickadees and their songs surround you with a cloak of high-octave chirps. At once it becomes clear that they are communicating with each other while simultaneously creating confusion. A few notes in one direction briefly draws attention. Then a bird whistles directly behind, shifting interest to this new bird. Then a chirp to the side, and so on. Like a gentle wind gust through the trees, the birds keep moving as they chatter, keeping one guessing as to their exact position.
These agile birds flit among the vegetation like little ghosts. They move with amazing agility among dense, interwoven vegetation. The flock, or dissemination as it is more specifically called, is often quite spread out, like a thin fog of feathery, twittering feather-balls. There is probably safety in keeping a low density, with many eyes spread out over a wide area. Black-capped chickadees often prefer to have at least one object between them and a human observer. This item can be as thin as a leaf. Anything to help them blend into their surroundings. In fact, a chickadee silhouette bears a striking resemblance to certain leaves, such as those found on a cherry tree, in both size and shape.
Black-capped chickadees are not only good acrobats, but they are also contortionists, twisting their bodies in unusual ways to reach food items in hard-to-reach positions. With their sharp, curved talons, they cling to the underside of tree branches with impunity. From this seemingly gravity-defying position, they can twist their heads around 180 degrees and take in a right-side-up view.
The dense canopies of fruit trees are a good place to find black-capped chickadees. The abundance of many insect pests, a delicacy to a chickadee, in these trees seems to be the big attraction. Chickadees also like sunflower seeds: Many a black-cap is willing to take these treats from a human hand.
All photos in the calendar were taken at the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary located near Vancouver, British Columbia.