Thursday, October 28, 2010

Extant Theropod Appreciation #3: The Black-capped Chickadee

I'll probably always associate the varied whistles, chirps, burbles, and especially the somewhat harsh "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" call of the Black-capped Chickadee with my current backyard: there's something about it that pairs perfectly with the white pines that loom over the other trees around the perimeter. While it's been one of my favorite birds since I was a kid with an old field guide and a few bird feeders, it's this setting that seems to be the small songbird's perfect stage.

Chickadee
Photo by Greg Wagner, via Flickr.

Theropods just don't get much cuter than this. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds site lists some pretty incredible facts about this common visitor to bird feeders, especially regarding their cunning little brains. Take this one:
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.
Or this one:
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.
Pretty awesome, and there's more where that come from.

5 comments:

  1. Tits in general are quite clever. Some populations have learned to exploit unusual food sources: blue tits drink milk and great tits eat bat brains. And I remember reading about one that taught its offspring to be wary of windows.

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  2. One of my favourite birds.

    We got the Audobon Guide to North American Birds for my iPod Touch, and when my family was visiting a provincial park, turned on the chickadee recordings and stood quietly on the trail.

    It was magic. My nephew, 8 at the time, stood with this big grin while chickadees came to investigate and called back.

    A common bird, but a wonderful one.

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  3. I'm loving this post series, David. I'm also loving this little passerine. Probably because they are always so nice to me. Every time I see one, it says "hey sweetie". How can you not like someone that treats you so good?

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  4. Thanks all, I figured this one was a no-brainer. Who doesn't like chickadees? One of those incredible critters that lives among us.

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  5. Chickadees are absolutely the best. I have to admit, however, that the "their brain has what is essentially a disk defragmenter" has always struck me as unsettling.

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