Photo: The extraordinary feather coat of a mountain chickadee

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As the East coast is being pummeled by snow, we feature a fabulous mountain chickadee with the most wonderful feather coat in town! Taken in Weaselhead Park, Calgary by photographer Tony LePrieur, this rediculously cute chickadee also serves as a beautiful illustration of one of the bird world's many tricks: Staying warm in winter. Hint, notice the puff – it's not there just to incite "awww"s.

“Feathers are incredibly specialized structures that serve many purposes including, for many species, keeping them warm,” says Peter Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo. “Birds’ feathers provide remarkable insulation against the cold, and the oil that coats feathers also provides waterproofing, which is important since the only thing worse than being cold, is being cold and wet,” says Marra.

And much like people get puffier in their puffy coats as winter progresses, birds do the same, kind of. “A bird’s body heat warms the air between its feathers,” Marra says. “So birds fluff up in the cold to trap as much air in their feathers as possible. The more trapped air, the warmer the bird.” From which we can conclude that our little mountain chickadee above must be pretty cozy.

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