A Tough Nut to Crack

Mike Oxley

Cornwall Ontario, Canada

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Black Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

(If you view larger you can maybe see the sunflower seed between its feet)

Cooper Marsh Conservation Area, Lancaster, Ontario, Canada
May 8, 2011

I was walking along the boardwalk at the Marsh, and, as usual, two wee scroungers came flying out of nowhere to see if I had brought along anything tasty. After being verbally abused on a number of occasions for not having anything, I learned my lesson and now carry a bag of sunflower seeds whenever I visit. These little guys were most grateful and constantly came back for more. One landed on a branch right in front of me and proceeded to batter his sunflower seed. It was quite amusing to watch.

It went something like this:




“Jings, mah heid hurts! Lucky Ah didnae take aff a tae, an aw.”

With thanks to www.allaboutbirds.org

Cool Facts

The Black-Capped Chickadee hides seeds and other food items to eat later. Each item is placed in a different spot and the chickadee can remember thousands of hiding places.

Every autumn Black-capped Chickadees allow brain neurons containing old information to die, replacing them with new neurons so they can adapt to changes in their social flocks and environment even with their tiny brains.

Chickadee calls are complex and language-like, communicating information on identity and recognition of other flocks as well as predator alarms and contact calls. The more dee notes in a chickadee-dee-dee call, the higher the threat level.

Winter flocks with chickadees serving as the nucleus contain mated chickadee pairs and nonbreeders, but generally not the offspring of the adult pairs within that flock. Other species that associate with chickadee flocks include nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, creepers, warblers and vireos.

Most birds that associate with chickadee flocks respond to chickadee alarm calls, even when their own species doesn’t have a similar alarm call.
There is a dominance hierarchy within flocks.

Some birds are “winter floaters” that don’t belong to a single flock—these individuals may have a different rank within each flock they spend time in.
Even when temperatures are far below zero, chickadees virtually always sleep in their own individual cavities. In rotten wood, they can excavate nesting and roosting holes entirely on their own.

Because small songbirds migrating through an unfamiliar area often associate with chickadee flocks, watching and listening for chickadee flocks during spring and fall can often alert birders to the presence of interesting migrants.

The oldest known wild chickadee lived to be 12 years and 5 months old.

Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 170 to 500 at 500 mm
iso 100, spot metered, F6.3, 1/250 second

Artwork Comments

  • Leslie van de Ligt
  • Mike Oxley
  • (Tallow) Dave  Van de Laar
  • Mike Oxley
  • Larry Trupp
  • Mike Oxley
  • Larry Trupp
  • Bobby Dar
  • Mike Oxley
  • Fred Mitchell
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  • Ray Clarke
  • Mike Oxley
  • Elfriede Fulda
  • Mike Oxley
  • Yannik Hay
  • Mike Oxley
  • Shulie1
  • Mike Oxley
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