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Tips on attracting and feeding backyard birds.

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Stars of Your Feeder Theater – Part 1 of 2

Posted by on in Attracting and feeding wild birds
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With the onset of winter, the curtain rises on the theater of your backyard feeders! And the stars of the show are the chickadees, those active and agile, highly personable, feathered performers. Traveling in small flocks like itinerant actors, these happy go-lucky troupers brighten many a gray day with their acrobatic antics.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hopper-bird-feeder-with-suet-holder.jpg
In spite of their tiny size, chickadees are among the hardiest of birds, ranging to the limits of forest growth in the frosty far north. In the United States, one can see five species of chickadees: the Black-capped, the Carolina, the Mexican, the Mountain and Chestnut-backed.

Chickadees appear to greet winter with all the zest of a child with a new sled, but the season is actually hard on chickadees. More than 70% of young birds do not survive their first year. “To the chickadee”, wrote Aldo Leopold, “winter wind is the boundary of the habitable world.” But chickadees have a secret adaptation weapon to fight the cold: they are among a small group of avian species which can decrease their body temperature at night to conserve energy, a process called regulated hypothermia. At night while at rest, chickadees can cool off from 108 degrees Fahrenheit to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. During cold winter nights, chickadees usually roost singly, often in dense conifer trees or tree cavities. They will also use nest boxes, especially roosting boxes, to keep warm.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Mountain-Chickadee-sock-feeder-Wendy-Rae.jpgMountain Chickadee by Windy Rae.

During a cold winter day, you may see chickadees fluffed up, as fat as tennis balls. The  fluffed feathers trap warm air – the bird’s own body heat – which provides insulation. A chickadee’s dark head and back also help keep it warm – those areas gather additional heat from the winter sun.

Next time: Winter diet and feeding behaviors.

I am delighted to join the Birdzilla team through this blog, sharing ideas and topics related to feeding and attracting wild birds in your backyard. Bird feeding is my life-long passion,  instilled by bird-feeding parents who raised me on an 80-acre farm in central Michigan.  After college, my wife and I served as U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer high-school teachers in Africa and then as staff members over an eight-year period.
 
Those wonderful times led to 30-years of bird-feeding leadership as founder of the Wild Bird Centers, franchising and supporting wild bird specialty stores across the country. I helped found the Bird Education Network and was a key financial supporter of PROJECT WILDBIRD, I currently serve as Executive Director of the National Bird-Feeding Society. Several years ago, I was asked to join “The Birder’s Team”, a working group of birding leaders selected by the National Wildlife Refuge System to recommend ways to better serve birders. millions of whom visit our extraordinary network of more than 500 Refuges. These “conservation jewels” actively protect critical habitat and conserve bird populations of all kinds. Most recently, I served as a judge to select the winning artist for the NWRS’ 2015 Duck Stamp Contest.

I now look forward to helping our readers experience the best our wonderful hobby offers. As I often say “The closer we live to each other, the closer we want to be to Nature.”

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