Not all birds migrate south for the winter. Some stay here in Montana and bear through the cold winter months. One of these birds is the well-known black-capped chickadee. Chickadees may be seen in your yard all year long. In winter they will form foraging flocks with nuthatches, titmice, and even woodpeckers.
But how is it that chickadees can survive through the winter? The chickadee's greatest obstacle is staying warm. The trick to doing this is eating as many calories during the day as they can, which will be metabolized for body heat. If they do not find enough food during they day, they will not make it through the cold night. Black-capped chickadees have another trick for surviving the winter nights: they can lower their body temperatures by up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit at night to save energy. The bird is able to drop its body temperature because of its ability to decrease its metabolic rates. The fewer calories that the chickadee burns, the less energy it creates. Less energy means a lower body temperature. However, the black-capped chickadee only does this on the coldest of nights.