I thought I was going to write about the Black Capped Chickadee, a tiny bird I thought I had been watching around my feeders and in parks for several years. Like many other novice bird watchers, it was one of the first birds I learned other than Cardinal and Robin. Its lustrous black cap and bib, its soft gray feathers. I was attracted to their spunky personalities, how they’re always seen with other small birds like titmice. How they grab a sunflower seed and fly away. Grab a sunflower seed and fly away. Diving, sharing, leaving. But my research led me to the discovery that I don’t live in their range; they only come about as far south as Virginia with the exception of a small territory in the Appalachian Mountains. What I’ve been admiring and pondering all these years has been the Carolina Chickadee.
I’ve lived here all my life and had no idea there was such a creature as a Carolina Chickadee. This seems appropriate, reflective of how I’ve resisted what’s right in front of me.
The Carolina Chickadee is cousin to the Black Capped Chickadee and it is said that these are tricky birds to distinguish even for seasoned bird watchers. Their wings are slightly browner and they do not have white fringing. Other than that, their appearance is very similar. A black cap and bib and an abundance of gray. They are small birds at 4.75 inches long with a weight of 9-12 grams.
I have dreams where they get in my house and I carry them out within my cupped hands. Their tiny talons digging in my palms.
But the main difference between the Carolina Wren and its cousin is its call and song. It’s call is said to be faster and higher pitched. Its song has four notes as opposed to the two noted song of the Black Capped Chickadee.
Carolina Chickadees are not migratory; they are permanent residents of the Southeast. They flock together with nuthatches, warblers, and as mentioned before, titmice because they call out when they find a good food source. They are supportive creatures. They feed on insects such as aphids, wasps, spiders, ants, and bees in the spring and summer and nuts, seeds, and fruits in winter.
They can thrive in suburban areas but they prefer areas wooded with alder and birch trees. They are fragile and susceptible to hawks, owls, and cats.
Despite their vulnerability to predators, they show strength in their ability to withstand severe winters by reducing their body temperatures to induce torpor, or hypothermia, to conserve energy. Humans should not disturb them in this state because the stress could kill them. During this time they are awake, but unresponsive.
A trance-like state induced by severe winter.
The stress builds, the stupor lingers.
We are bound to our tree cavities.