Chickadees in Winter

Snow all over everything in the Rocky Mountains.  I look outside the window while I am stuck in the house and see white snow everywhere.  I do not see many animals around nor do I hear many birds.

In the summer I see lots of different kinds of birds and even larger animals.  But, it seems like one of the only birds that I see during the winter are those tiny little birds with black heads – the Black Capped Chickadees.  These tiny birds have a big, round head that has a black cap and also a black bib – black around the front of its neck.

In the winter time they travel in small flocks with some other kinds of small songbirds mixed in also.

But, how do they stay warm enough to survive cold winters?

bird black capped chickadee small

Black Capped Chickadee

Eat anything they can – During the summer Chickadees eat mostly insects, caterpillars, and spiders.  But, during the summer those foods are not as readily available and Chickadees will eat anything they can during the winter.  This includes berries, seeds, and even scavenging off dead animals.

Carefully Chosen Night Time Resting Spot

Thick winter coats – Chickadees replace their feathers at the end of the summer.  This means that they have new, thick feathers for the winer.  In addition to having new feathers, they are also good at fluffing out their feathers.  This fluffing of the feathers holds in more heat and keeps them warmer.

Lower their body temperature at night –   During very cold nights they stay warm by going under a mild hypothermia – where they lower their body temperature by 12 t0 15 degrees.  Even with lowering their body temperature they use up a lot of energy at night staying warm.  They use up to 10% of their body weight during the night to stay warm.  This means that during the day they need to eat a lot of food – so that they gain back 10% of their body weight during the day.

Communal Roosting – if the nights become very cold, Chickadees may decide to roost together in a large flock in trees, logs, or other sheltered places.  Staying together in a large flock with other birds helps them stay warmer than if they were alone.