This week’s #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), one of the most common birds in Ontario! These cute little birds have distinct gray bellies, black and white faces and (you guessed it!) black caps on their heads. They have at least 15 different vocalizations, the most recognizable of which sounds like the bird is saying its name (chicka-dee-dee-dee). Chickadees love to eat insects in the summer, and we often see them hanging upside down to get at them. In the winter, they eat mostly seeds and berries and are often seen frequenting bird feeders. They are pretty friendly birds, and will readily eat out of the hand. Black-capped Chickadees also have an astonishingly good memory and can remember the location of food caches for up to 28 days! It has even been found that to prepare for winter, chickadees will add new brain cells to their hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memory retention), expanding it by 30%! Come spring, when they don’t need to remember cache locations anymore, the hippocampus shrinks back down to its original size. Chickadees are also well known for their metabolism. Since they don’t migrate in the winter, they have a special cold-weather adaptation. They can lower their internal body temperature by 12 degrees (to around 30°C), entering a state of torpor. They also fluff up their feathers for warmth, and commonly sleep in tree cavities for extra weather protection, sometimes clustering with other chickadees for warmth. In the spring, chickadees form monogamous breeding pairs and build a nest in a tree cavity (often one they built themselves), to get ready for their clutch of 1-13 eggs. Have you seen this bird in the park?
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