Saturday, February 25, 2006

Arnold the Chickadee

This morning I was watching my birdfeeder, when suddenly a very large chickadee flew onto the platform. To my eye, this chickadee looked like a chickadee on steroids, a veritable Arnold Schwartzeneger of a chickadee. The bird was large and plump and very bright, and it took me a moment to realize that I was seeing an actual black-capped chickadee, not a Carolina chickadee or even an intergrade Carolina/black-capped chickadee.

I am fortunate enough to live in that narrow band of territory where both Carolina chickadees and black-capped chickadees are possible. Usually, I just refer to the chickadees I see as chickadee sp., as the two species hybridize in this narrow area of overlap and even learn each other’s songs. As a result, most of my chickadees are a little of this and a little of that and not definitively one species or the other.

But every now and again I see one (or the other) that is so quintessentially not a hybrid that it seems almost alien. My “Arnold” sighting today was the perfect black-capped chickadee.

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