Did you know that there are a number of bird species that overwinter in Madison. The smallest of the bird species to make Madison their winter home is the black-capped chickadee. The bird is given this name because it has distinctive black feathers on its’ head with white feathers underneath the eye. It is also know for it’s beautiful vocalization (chirping).
Watching them in the backyard is a special treat. They can fly from pirch to on tall ornamental grasses or on tiny tree limbs. Often they hang upside down when feeding on backyard bird feeders. The chickadee is a light weight since it weighs a mere one-third to one-half ounce.
How does this small creature survive the extreme cold, wind and snow? First, it traps air in its’ inch thick feathers which traps warm air between the feathers and skin. For those days when the temperature hovers near zero the chickadee ‘shivers’ it’s chest muscles very fast which generates heat that is then trapped by the feathers.
The chickadee has an unusual eating pattern. They eat all day long and feed only during daylight hours. Every day the chickadees gorge themselves during the day and use up their food supply at night. A chickadee can add ten percent of its body weight every day and use it all up at night to keep warm. The next morning the process is repeated again. We can help the chickadee population by keeping bird feeds full, especially with foods with a high fat content.
We can all be stewards of our bird species especially during the winter months.
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