Saturday, 2 February 2013

Black Capped Chickadee

order : Passeriformes      Genus & Species : Paridae     Family : Parus atricapillus

With its complex range of calls, the blackcapped chickadee is able to communicate a wide range of messages, from warnings to mating songs. Named for its cheery song and bold black cap, the sociable black-capped chickadee sings a concert of calls year-round. They found across most of the United States and part of Canada from central Alaska to Newfoundland, south to North Carolina. 

Habitat : The black-capped chickadee favors edges of deciduous, mixed and coniferous forests, gardens and parks. Depending on the species, the bird can be found at high and low elevations. It occurs in the spruce fir forests in the Adirondacks in New York and pinyon-juniper forests in Colorado. Other favorite habitats include riverine willows, cottonwoods, alders, well-wooded farmland and cemeteries. In the winter and during migrations, the bird may be found in a wider variety of bushy habitats, including urban areas and among conifers. Due to fear, it usually avoids crossing open bodies of water when it migrates. Some mountain populations of the bird will change elevations depending on food availability and the weather. The chickadee is also found at higher elevations in the Appalachians, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Rocky Mountains. 
Food & Feeding : Almost all the nourishment the black-capped chickadee needs can be found in trees and shrubs. Feeding primarily on insects, seeds and berries, the chickadee uses its pointy beak to pluck at the bark of trees or tug at branches. The bird favors caterpillars and spiders, as well as hemlock and bayberries, and may also feed on maple sap, the fat of animal carcasses or dead fish.The birds often carry larger food items to their roost before eating, often stashing them for the winter among pine needles and in tree holes. Finding food in the winter is difficult for this tiny bird; foraging in groups increases the chance of success. The birds keep an eye on each other; when one finds a morsel, the others renew their search in that area. New food sources are continually communicated throughout the flock either through calls or direct observation of captured items. 
Behavior : Flocks of black-capped chickadees consist of about 2–18 birds.They brave the cold of winter by shivering, which helps turn body fat to energy, keeping the birds warm. This hardy bird also conserves energy in temperatures far below freezing by lowering its body temperature and burning fewer calories.Throughout the year, flocks will often join together and fly with other similar bird species, such as warblers and creepers, in search of food.Vocalizations serve to ensure the safety of the group. Some members of a feeding flock will keep an eye out for danger, and the first chickadee to spot a potential predator gives a warning note. In response, the whole flock freezes and utters thin, ventriloquial calls, which sound as if they are coming from another area.This confuses the predator, and most will then leave.When the coast is clear, and all is well, a chickadee call brings the flock back to life. Other birds also benefit from this defense system. Though often tame to the extent of being hand-fed, the black-capped chickadee remains secretive in its family life, from egg-laying to fledging, but its seet-seet-seet and zee-zee-zee calls are heard throughout the breeding season. 
Breeding : Pairs mate for life and begin their breeding cycle in April when the winter flocks disperse; territories are established using fee-bee calls. The birds build their nest in a rotting branch, usually in a birch or aspen tree, 1–10' above ground. Both sexes excavate the nesting hole, but only the female builds the nest inside, which she lines with grasses, pine needles, fur and spider webs. She incubates the 5–10 brown-spotted white eggs for 11–13 days; her mate feeds her while she remains in the nesting chamber. The new chicks fledge after 14–18 days but still join their parents in search of feeding grounds. Single families often join up with one or more families, forming flocks of 8–12 birds, during the fall and winter months. Families break up during the following breeding season, and young chickadees finally disperse from their birth areas, often moving several miles away. 

Bill : The stout, pointed bill is perfect for gathering the wide variety of items on the chickadee’s menu, from bayberries to caterpillars. 
Wings : Males and females look similar, with a neat, black cap and bib, and gray or olive upperparts.The cheeks are white and the flanks are pale buff, with narrow white edges on feathers at the bend of the wing. 
Legs & Feet : Small but strong legs and feet help support the diminutive chickadee as it flits from branch to branch. 

Weight : About 0.3 oz. 
Length : 4.75-5.5"
Wingspan : 7.5-8.5"
Sexual Maturity : 1-2 year
Breeding Season : April–June 

Only birds have a syrinx, a specialized voice box; it sits lower in the body and aids in balance during flight.

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