Birds - The Chickadee
( Originally Published 1904 )
(Parus atricapillus) Titmouse family
Called also : BLACK-CAPPED TITMOUSE ; BLACK-CAP TIT
Length—5 to 5.5 inches. About an inch smaller than the English sparrow.
Male and Female—Not crested. Crown and nape and throat black. Above gray, slightly tinged with brown. A white space, beginning at base of bill, extends backwards, widening over cheeks and upper part of breast, forming a sort of collar that almost surrounds neck. Underneath dirty white, with pale rusty-brown wash on sides. Wings and tail gray, with white edgings. Plumage downy.
Range—Eastern North America. North of the Carolinas to Labrador. Does not migrate in the North.
Migrations—Late September. May. Winter resident ; permanent resident in northern parts of the United States.
No " fair weather friend " is the jolly little chickadee. In the depth of the autumn equinoctial storm it returns to the tops of the trees close by the house, where, through the sunshine, snow, and tempest of the entire winter, you may hear its cheery, irrepressible chickadee-dee-dee-dee or day-day-day as it swings around the dangling cones of the evergreens. It fairly over-flows with good spirits, and is never more contagiously gay than in a snowstorm. So active, so friendly and cheering, what would the long northern winters be like without this lovable little neighbor ?
It serves a more utilitarian purpose, however, than bracing faint-hearted spirits. " There is no bird that compares with it in destroying the female canker-worm moths and their eggs," writes a well-known entomologist. He calculates that as a chickadee destroys about 5,500 eggs in one day, it will eat 138,750 eggs in the twenty-five days it takes the canker-worm moth to crawl up the trees. The moral that it pays to attract chickadees about your home by feeding them in winter is obvious. Mrs. Mabel Osgood Wright, in her delightful and helpful book " Birdcraft," tells us how she makes a sort of a bird-hash of finely minced raw meat, waste canary-seed, buckwheat, and cracked oats, which she scatters in a sheltered spot for all the winter birds. The way this is consumed leaves no doubt of its popularity. A raw bone, hung from an evergreen limb, is equally appreciated.
Friendly as the chickadee, is—and Dr. Abbott declares it the tamest bird we have—it prefers well-timbered districts, especially where there are red-bud trees, when it is time to nest. It is very often clever enough to leave the labor of hollowing out a nest in the tree-trunk to the woodpecker or nuthatch, whose old homes it readily appropriates ; or, when these birds object, a knot-hole or a hollow fence-rail answers every purpose. Here, in the summer woods, when family cares beset it, a plaintive, minor whistle replaces the chickadee-dee-dee that Thoreau likens to "silver tinkling " as he heard it on a frosty morning.
" Piped a tiny voice near by,