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door to NaturE articLE & PhotoGraPhy By roy LukEs


Friendly, Feathered


Gymnast Black-capped Chickadee


f one were to conduct a popu- larity contest regarding the wild birds of the forest, attempting to determine the one that is most widely-recognized and en- joyed, which do you suppose it


would be? My vote would go to a pert, friendly, little feathered gymnast, the one the American Indians of this region called “ch’geegee-lokh-sis,” the Black- capped Chickadee.


Residents of Maine and Massachu-


setts chose this nimble creature as their state bird, and rightly so. T e Black- capped Chickadees live there year round, as they, of course, do in many other states. T e northern forest states, however, can by no means lay sole claim to these cheerful acrobats. A wide range of environments include the chickadees – deciduous to coniferous woods, high- lands to lowlands, wetlands to drylands. Our region experiences an increase in their numbers every winter, down from


54 Door County Living Winter 2011/2012


the north because of the shortage of food there.


T ese trusting, roly-poly birds reach


the peak of their birdfeeder activity in winter. Only an occasional one or two are seen at our summer feeders, while a dozen or more chickadees, in addition to other birds, look for a handout on a typical winter day. During a two-day period in the early spring of 1967, I cap- tured a total of 53 chickadees in my mist nets for scientifi c study and banding at T e Ridges Sanctuary where I was living and working. I was a volunteer, federal- ly-licensed bird bander at the time.


Imagine my surprise and joy when,


in late October of 1973 while banding birds at T e Ridges, I recaptured one of those chickadees banded in early 1967. Obviously the bird was hatched during the summer of 1966 or earlier making it seven or more years old. One of the things that interested me was a defi nite growth of tiny grayish feathers mixed in


with the black head feathers. T e record age of a Black-capped Chickadee at the time, as far as I could determine, was nine years.


Banding, weighing, and measuring


nesting chickadees from diff erent lati- tudes in North America has proven that those in the north tend to have larger bodies, giving them less body area in proportion to their weight. T is fact helps them to survive in extremely cold temperatures. Another recorded discov- ery is that the northern birds’ beaks, legs, and wings tend to be shorter than those of the southern birds. T ese ex- tremities lose heat more rapidly than the larger parts of the bodies.


Here are other interesting facts: A chickadee’s heartbeat speeds up as the surrounding air temperature decreases. An active feeding chickadee on a sub- zero day can be expected to have more than 1,000 heartbeats per minute. Its heart slows down to about 500 beats per


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