This is a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) that i caught on camera in Memphis, Tennessee over the holiday break when visiting my in-laws. Their house has a large bird-feeder that we load up with sunflower seeds every day to attract the birds. I got a great picture of this little one as he or she was trying to get their meal. These are cool little birds and easy to identify. They live all throughout the southeastern United States and are very common around developed areas and are readily seen on bird-feeders all year around. One thing that I like about these birds is that their feather arrangement on their heads makes them look like they have a black mohawk.
These birds feed on insects mainly in the summer and will rely on small fruits and berries in the winter months (this is when they come to feeders the most). They can be seen taking seeds away from a feeder and hammering it into a tree branch to break them open, and sometimes resemble woodpeckers when they are doing this. They breed inside tree holes and commonly use old woodpecker nesting holes, but will burrow their own holes as well. During the fall and winter migration periods, these Carolina Chickadees will migrate in mixed flocks with other birds. They are very commonly seen with titmice, but travel with nuthatches and some warbler species as well. The reason they fly in these mixed flocks is because the Chickadees will call out when they find a good food source. This alerts the rest of the birds of good food areas and is a very beneficial for the flock as a whole. That being said if you do see these Chickadees around keep watching the area because you will most likely see other bird species.
One really cool fact about Carolina Chickadees is that they have the unique ability to lower their body temperature and intentionally induce a state of hypothermia, called torpor. This helps the birds conserve energy during extremely cold winter weather (like tonight when its supposed to get down to 19 F or -7.2 C here in Charleston, SC). During these extreme times they will find cavities and hide in this torpor state for up to 15 hours where they are technically awake, but in a state of stupor and will not respond. It is important not to handle these birds when they are in this state because they are very vulnerable and the stress of being handled by a big, ugly human could kill them. So next time you see one of these tiny, mohawked friends watch them for a while and be amazed.
For more info on the Carolina Chickadee click here