Perhaps the best known bird in the state, holding the title of “Maine’s State Bird”, the Black-capped Chickadee is an amazing survivor thanks to its wits. For a bird that is just over five inches long and that weighs less than the equivalent weight of five pennies, it is remarkable that it can survive Maine’s harsh winter, while most other birds its size migrate to warmer climates. One adaptation chickadees have is a proportionately large hippocampus (the memory center of the brain) which grows even in the fall. They fill their expanding brains with information about where they have cached food and can accurately remember where they stored it, and the quality of it, for up to 28 days! Chickadees will still eat a surprising amount of insects and spiders throughout the winter (up to 50% of their diet) but having an abundance of seeds that they’ve stored is apparently an important part of their survival when food is scarce.
Backyard Bird of the Month is a feature by Maine Audubon created for the Maine Home Garden News, the newsletter of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Garden and Yard
Photo by Doug Hitchcox