Mount Lemmon Wildlife — Mountain Chickadee

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Tonight I’m featuring more wildlife that I photographed on the upper slopes of Mt. Lemmon.  This is a Mountain Chickadee.

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These charming little birds are close relatives of the more familiar Black-capped Chickadee.  They differ in appearance in that Black-capped Chickadees have solid black caps on their heads whereas Mountain Chickadees bear white “eyebrows” below their caps and above their eyes.  Otherwise, the two species are essentially identical.  These birds’ range covers the Rocky Mountains, parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Sierra Nevadas.  Its southernmost edge lies in southern Arizona and the northernmost part of Mexico.

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Chickadees are known for their remarkable flying skills.  These birds are tiny acrobats, capable of incredible maneuvers in flight.  Lately, they have become known for something else.  Scientists studying these birds’ calls — consisting of high, thin whistles, and complex gargling sounds — have discovered that they possess one of the most complex systems of communication of any land creature.  They use their calls like a language and by modulating them they can communicate all sorts of information to their fellow chickadees, including the location of food, the presence of a predator, and whether the predator is in flight or perched.  It’s hard to believe that something as tiny as this bird could be so sophisticated, but the fact is, these birds aren’t just cute, they’re extremely smart.

Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400 f4-5.6 ISII Zoom Lens, aperture priority setting.  The first image shot at ISO 1600, f5.6 @ 1/200. The second at ISO 1250, f5.6 @ 1/250.

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