[Walking softly through the forest]
BIRD: Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee!
HUMAN: Who are you?
BIRD: We are the Chickadees that say... Fee-bee!
HUMAN: No! Not the Chickadees that say Fee-bee!
BIRD: The same!
HUMAN: Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale!
BIRD: The Chickadees Who Say Fee-bee demand a sacrifice!
HUMAN: Chickadees of Fee-bee, I am but a simple birder who seek the enchanter who lives beyond these woods.
BIRD: Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee! Fee-bee!
HUMAN: Oh, ow!
BIRD: We shall say 'Fee-bee' again to you if you do not appease us.
HUMAN: Well, what is it you want?
BIRD: We want... sunflower seeds!
Black-capped Chickadees have a remarkably complex and varied repertoire of vocalizations, but perhaps the most common song carrying through the forest is their characteristic fee-bee (aka as ‘Hey, sweetie’). You can listen to recordings of their vocalizations here. As I was making my way along the Whitemud Ravine trail the Black-capped Chickadees came out in full force confronting me. The exchange that followed was remarkably reminiscent of the exchange King Arthur has with the Nights of Ni in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. In case you are not familiar with this scene you can enjoy it in all its glory right here. This band of Chickadees meant business. A dozen chickadees quickly surrounded me, perching in the shrubbery and on the ground around my feet and said ‘fee-bee, fee-bee, fee-bee’. One of them landed on my leg. Another one went straight for my outstretched hand. When it realized that I had not brought an offering I received a condescending look of disbelieve and indignation. I had no other choice than continue walking with a dozen chickadees tagging along fee-bee’ing me incessantly.
Black-capped Chickadees may be one of our smallest birds but they are definitely one of the most resourceful and intelligent birds in these neck of the woods. There have learned to take full advantage of our weakness for cuteness and manipulated our feeble human minds to provide them with free snacks year round. Although I do not bring snacks, plenty of other people do. There are always piles of sun flower seed strewn about along the trail and on the bridge railings along Whitemud Creek. They swoop down, grab a sunflower seed and then fly off to a nearby shrub where they get to work on the seed. It’s basically like a fly-through fast food joint. Chickadees are also known for hoarding food for leaner times. Although chickadees undeniably have small brains, they are no bird brains. They are very capable of remembering where they hide food stashes when they need to find them in the middle of the winter.
Came across the unusually fuzzy looking Black-capped Chickadee at the MacTaggard Sanctuary the other day. This chickadee looked bedraggled and mottled , like it was having a bad hair feather day. I have my suspicions that’s perhaps it could bear a juvenile, but I have not been able to find any conclusive information supporting my theory. During the winter the chickadees were very abundant and as soon as one would arrive at the trail, the chickadees would greet you, probably hoping for a treat. During the summer the situation is quite different. While one can hear their song in the forest they keep to them selves and rarely accost unsuspecting humans. This disheveled looking chickadee, however, came down to check me out. It did not stray long. Once it was clear that I was not offering any treats it took off and vanished in the shrubbery again.
This picture was taken by my son when he first put his hands on our new Canon PowerShot SX70 HS. He took this image in the low light conditions of the understory with full zoom at 1365 mm (35 mm equivalent) at ISO 800. I like how the picture shows the “fluffiness” of the Black-capped Chickadee, which helps to keep them warm in the winter. It also shows a rarely seen phenomenon…, a Black-capped Chickadee sitting still for more than a blink of an eye. These small nonmigratory songbirds seem to be in perpetual motion even during the coldest of winter days. We saw an abundance of Black-capped Chickadees flittering around in the understory during the recent February cold-spell even when temperatures dropped to below -40 °C. It is remarkable how well-adapted these birds are to our harsh climate. To conserve energy on cold nights, they have the ability to go into a state of torpor by lower their body temperature by as much as 10 to 12 °C (their normal body temperature is 42 °C). They may be small, but what they lack in size they make up for in sheer feistiness and awesome attitude. They are constant companions on our nature walk along the creek and are always checking if we bring any treats.
May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling). Copyright Mario Pineda.