Speaking Program: More than You Thought You Wanted to Know about Black-capped Chickadees

Their flocks have a social hierarchy that they all honor. They use a complex system of visual and spatial memories to each relocate tens of thousands of cached food items. Their brains are specially adapted for storing spatial memories, yet they have trouble remembering their own siblings, so join separate winter flocks to ensure they won’t accidentally choose a brother or sister as a mate. Migrating warblers gravitate to their flocks.

They easily survived the night when Minnesota broke its all-time temperature record of 60 below zero, yet cope on summer days when the thermometer climbs to three digits. There may be other birds as smart, as hardy, maybe even as friendly. But if Laura Erickson were trapped on the proverbial desert island with only one bird species for company, no other contender could displace the chickadee for her. What makes them so endearing for virtually every backyard birder, yet so endlessly satisfying for scientific researchers studying the gamut, from vocalizations to energetics, animal behavior to evolutionary biology, ecology to neurobiology? Laura will present a fun overview of the wealth of research on this charming little mite.

Black-capped Chickadees about to fledge