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Ten Reasons to Love Chickadees

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10. A Thick Skin
These little guys might be able to fit inside your pocket, but they make up for their size with incredible resilience. They know what it truly means to tough out a cold winter, surviving frigid temperatures by burrowing individual holes in rotten wood. Although these miniature homes sound cozy, it’s still impressive they can withstand those frosty winter nights. Brrr!

9. Belief in Hierarchy
Just like the royal family, chickadees have a pecking order. In the winter, you will see chickadees in noticeable flocks and if you watch close enough, you can see how each of them are ranked. The dominant members will have first access to food and will be aggressive with lower-order birds who eat first. The mighty shall reign.

8. Curiosity Kills the Cat
Another lovable characteristic of the chickadee is its sense of wonder and curiosity. This natural desire for exploration is the main reason they are willing to eat from our hands and visit our nearby bird feeders. Curiosity can also get these passerines into trouble however. Instead of curiosity killing the cat, if they’re not careful, the cat could kill them.

7. Temper Tantrums
You might think you’re hearing a bird gargling after brushing its teeth, but that’s actually one angry chickadee. Not only do they fly together like gangs in the winter, but they also make aggressive “gargle” sounds when mad. This occurs more frequently among neighbouring males in the springtime, which makes asking for a cup of sugar tricky. Whether these tantrums sound similar to your own, it makes these little rascals a bit more relatable.

6. Predictable Attraction
Although it is well known that birds sing in the springtime to defend territories and attract mates, the chickadee has a particular style to attract the ladies. This style I refer to is known as “stereotypy” or the precision with which the “fee-bee” song is executed. Years of practice over evolutionary time to perfect this precise song has resulted in a somewhat predictable pickup line.

5. Natural Acrobats
The swiftness of a chickadee’s flight is comparable to a regular trapeze artist. They perform incredible tricks like hanging upside down, doing loops, and generally being agile and quick. Now if only we could get them to ride on a unicycle.

4. Social Butterflies
Although strict order exists within flocks of chickadees, these flocks tend to make friends easily. This is a treat for birders since migrating songbirds and warblers who are unfamiliar with the area are bound to be found hanging out with these tiny charmers. Instead of migrating themselves, chickadees act as guides by association to migrators stopping along their route south.

3. Hoarders & Finders

Similar to squirrels storing nuts to eat throughout the winter, chickadees “cache” or hide seeds in various locations for this same reason. Unlike the grey squirrel, who are known to forget the location of many of its nuts, the chickadee is able to remember thousands of hiding spots. It’s like a giant game of hide and seek.

2. That Familiar Tune
One of the first bird sounds you learn as a child and one of the first you hear in the forest, the chickadee-dee-dee call, is so renowned that it could be Top 40 material. This call may be used as an alarm and in fact the more dee’s you hear, the higher the level of threat. It may also be used to communicate within the flock, a language which is still little understood.

1. Cutie Patooties
My number one reason to love chickadees is their cute appearance. Wearing perma-tuxedos, their black and white feathers make them always ready for prom. They’re bouncy and stout, and as endearing as ever. Their popularity in this department would win them prom king for sure.

Written in 2014 by Jackie Day

Jackie is an avid nature lover and studied Biology at the University of Western Ontario. In her research thesis, she looked at the effects of a stress hormone on Black-capped Chickadee vocalizations.