“Dee-dee” means I love you: lessons from a chickadee


Karen and the chickadees

A very good friend of mine posted some new pictures on Face Book today from a day of cross-country skiing.  There were an assortment of poses and some candid shots. Three of the pictures particularly got my attention as in these shots there were black-capped chickadees perched on the people’s hands and even on their hats.  I love chickadees, they are my favourite birds and I was fascinated to see them behaving so tamely.

 I must admit, I was also a little jealous.Chickadees are awesome little birds. Around the 12 to 15 cm in size, it would seem that this little bird would be very delicate like a little pet budgee or canary. This impression would be totally incorrect. On a day in New Brunswick at -30 degrees Celsius, when I don’t even want to go out with heavy coat, scarf, hat and mittens, these birds can be seen flitting among the branches or having a snack at a feeder.

According to Hinterland Who’s Who at http://www.hww.ca/hww2.asp?id=29 chickadees are found throughout Canada, from the island of Newfoundland to British Columbia (except for the coastal islands) and extends northwards into the southern Yukon and Northwest Territories and except for rare occasions they do not flee o the south for the winter.  They puff up their feathers to stay warm, conserve energy by lowering their body temperatures for a portion of the day, and they adapt quickly to new circumstances such as the availability of backyard feeders.

Communication is another of the things that distinguish the chickadee.  One of the reasons I am so fond of them, other than them being cute and our provincial bird, is that I learned a little about their vocal repertoire a long time ago at an interpretation evening at Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia.  The two main things that I have learned of their calls are their characteristic “chick-a-dee-dee” which is one of the ways that couples locate each other, like saying, “I’m over here!”  The other is when they sing, “Dee-dee, dee-dee” which has been said to be , “love you, love you!”

I would argue that the chickadee has possibly been better naturally equipped than we have been.  Despite their petite stature they are well suited to change which most of us find it very difficult to handle at the best of times.  They are adapted to survive and thrive in the harsh winter weather without having to add any extra layers or rely on heaters etc. They care enough about each other to keep track of their mates, and perhaps most importantly,  they know how to say  I love you.  If only we could be more like the black-capped chickadee.

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