Ski Trails will be closed until we receive sufficient snowfall. Hiking Trails are open.Each evening at Crossroads, shutting down the Collins Learning Center for the night includes turning down the heat in order to save a bit of fuel. And just about the same time we are fiddling with the thermostats, the Black-capped Chickadees are turning down their body temperatures.
Chickadees are such perky little things, we tend to think of them as cheerful. But actually, they are frantically feeding almost non-stop from before sun-up to sundown in the winter in order to “fuel” themselves to make it through the night. But winter nights are long and days are short. The truth is, in winter, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for a chickadee to consume all of the calories it needs to stay warm through the night.
So instead of maintaining their daytime temperature of 108 degrees F., at night the little birds go into a state of torpor called “regulated hypothermia,” which means their body temperatures drop to about 85 degrees F. Consequently, they use about 25% less body fat than they would if they maintain a stable temperature like humans do.
Chickadees also have significantly more feathers in the winter than they do in summer and they can fluff up to increase the insulating properties of wearing a down coat. And they roost in tiny cavities out of the wind, which also decreases heat loss.
We see chickadees at the feeders eating sunflower seeds, but they also eat insects and spiders, insect eggs and pupae, fruit, and if they can find it, the fat from dead animals–suet, roadkill, predator left-overs—they don’t care. It’s good fuel. At Crossroads, we add our peanut butter mix to the menu. Chickadees eat 10% of their body weight every day. And almost every morning, they weigh the same as they did the day before, having used all those calories for body heat.
And that is the beauty of “turning down the heat” at night. If they conserve, they survive.
On Friday, February 18, some area schools will have an early dismissal. So, from 1:00-3:00, snow conditions permitting, The Friends of Crossroads will add an extra Family Ski to the schedule. From 1:00-2:30, we will loan out skis and snowshoes free of charge.
At 3:00, a Family Make and Take Workshop “Chickadees” will be offered. After a short program about chickadees, each family will make a simple chickadee feeder to take home. This one hour program is free and open to the public.