Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nuthatch, Chickadee

Chickadees and nuthatches are the mainstays at our feeder in winter, and I think they kind of "go" with the look of the landscape--elegant black and white, with subtle blue or rosy shadings that mimic the play of afternoon sun on snow.

Both are tiny birds, but the chickadees look cuddlier than the nuthatches. Nuthatches are more streamlined. They have small heads and long beaks--adult proportions. Chickadees are "neotenic"--they have the kind of features that remind us of babies and trigger the cuddling response. Puppies and kittens are neotenic with a vengeance: big heads, widely spaced eyes, tiny muzzles. That's why we fall victim to them, even when we ought to know better. Chickadees--even the bossy adult males--look like babies too: their heads are round and large in proportion to their bodies, their eyes are wide apart, and their beaks are the size of a niger seed: the very essence of cuteness.

It was sunny today, and cold, but in the middle of the day you could actually feel the warmth of the sun. And up in the bare branches of a birch a chickadee could feel it too, and sang its song with extra oomph: "Heeere sweetie, sweetie, sweetie!"

Before you know it, the sweetie will answer the call, and then spring will really be on its way.

6 comments :

  1. and nuthatches like to hang around upside down on tree trunks!

    we took down our feeders years ago because the neighborhood cats were staking out the birds. but we still get plenty of birds, because of our proximity to the park. yesterday on the icy sleety rainy walk we watched a red-tail hawk soar right over our heads.

    i love the little birds, but i am in awe of the big ones.

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  2. I love those red-tailed hawks. Their courting whistles are another sign of spring--one we haven't heard yet, alas.

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  3. I've always said that a chickadee is the kind of bird I wouldn't want to meet up with in a back alley (assuming they were my size)—they are deceivingly tough, aggressive things. The cuteness does in fact draw you in.

    One of my favorite paintings Tim ever did (for me!) is of a nuthatch on a gargoyle toad (a found item from our city days)—it hangs over my bed.

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  4. I wish you'd take a photo of that painting, and post it.

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  5. Cardinals, juncos, eurasian tree sparrows (a St. louis delicacy, well, not to eat, but to view), nuthatches, titmouses (titmice?). Almost never do I see a chickadee at my feeder. Too urban, I suppose.

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  6. Eurasian tree sparrows??? I bet Indigo's envious.

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