Artwork by

Birds of a Feather Notecard



Birds of a Feather

“The fields are bleak, and they are, as it were, vacated. The very earth is like a house shut up for the winter, and I go knocking about it in vain. But just then I heard a chickadee on a hemlock, and was inexpressibly cheered to find that an old acquaintance was yet stirring about the premises, and was, I was assured, to be there all winter. All that is evergreen in me revived at once.”

Henry David Thoreau

November 7, 1858

Chickadees are often joined by nuthatches, titmice, brown creepers and downy woodpeckers as they course through the winter woods. These mixed-species flocks probably form to increase feeding efficiency. Having more individuals search for food increases the likelihood that a rich feeding patch will be located. By moving together in a mixed species feeding flock, birds with the same sorts of diets can avoid areas that have already been searched for food by others in the flock. Individuals in mixed flocks can also learn about new food sources from other species. With more eyes to watch, a mixed feeding flock is probably more able to spot predators.

artwork by Bernard C. Scott © 1993

text by Steve Sierigk