2017-08-12 / Columnists

Nature Notes

By Patricia Martin

chy within flocks of chickadees. Winter flocks with chickadees serving as the nucleus contain mated chickadee pairs and nonbreeders, but generally not the offspring of the adult pairs within that flock. Other species associated with chickadees include nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, creepers, warblers, and vireos. Most of the birds that associate with chickadee flocks respond to chickadee alarms, even when their own species doesn’t have a similar alarm call. Often, when small songbirds migrate through an unfamiliar area, they will associate with a chickadee flock, so watching a chickadee flock in the spring and fall can help the birder find interesting migrants.

As the adult black-capped chickadees do not migrate, they survive our cold winters by sleeping in their own individual cavities in rotten wood, where they can excavate easily. Rotting wood also releases some heat.

Young chickadees, in years when reproduction is high, will sometimes travel long distances, but these movements are irregular and should more accurately be called “irruptions.”

It is always strange when you set out to find out one thing about a species you thought you knew a lot about, you discover a whole lot more that you didn’t know.

Trish Martin is a year-around resident of Mackinac Island, has earned a master’s degree in botany from Central Michigan University, and owns Bogan Lane Inn.

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