Tuesday, March 22, 2011


The Chickadee is practically perfect in every way.  Its appearance is tailored--conservative in black, white, and shades of gray.  Good manners accompany them to the feeders they love to visit --kind of like we humans take turns at an ATM machine and don’t like to have others stand too close, so the Chickadee flits up to a feeder, takes a seed , then flits back to peel and eat it in the lilac bush.  The next Chickadee repeats this action and so it goes. 

Chickadees are friendly and reports of their eating out of human hands and lighting on human shoulders are numerous.  Chickadees do not migrate and their constant presence and consistent appearance make them easy to identify.

But just in case you do not recognize a Chickadee immediately, it tells you its name.  While many of the mnemonics for remembering bird calls do not work for me,  the words chick-a-dee-dee-dee  sound exactly like what the bird is saying. 

In the spring, the Chickadee has another sound.  Around the time the sap runs in the maple trees, he  begins to sing fee-bee--a  clear two-note whistle.   He is not impersonating another bird--this is the chickadee’s “song”.  So what is the difference between a bird song and a bird call?   Bird songs are usually melodic, complex, and the domain of male birds only. They are associated with mating and all that entails,  Bird songs are usually heard only in the spring.  Bird calls are heard throughout the year, are not as melodic and are used by males and females alike.  Calls are used for warnings, location, flocking, or to announce a food source.  Although the Chickadee is known as one of the lesser musicians in the bird world, human spirits are lifted by all who hear his simple spring song. 

Birdwords by Linda Lunna ©  2011


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