Chickadee Memory for Us All!

Hello Hump Day readers. I have a question for you: “How is your memory?” I ask this because I’m about to be 70 years old and I find that sometimes my memory has taken a ride to another place! Truth be told, it happens throughout our lives, but when we age we realize things change, oh whoopee! So, I thought you might enjoy this ‘nature of science’ about the incredible memory of the black-capped chickadee, one of the most beloved little birds!

A chickadees’ life is interesting. For instance, every fall, they cache thousands of seeds, insects and other snacks to help them survive North America’s harsh winters. But how do these petite birds—named for their distinctive “dee-dee-dee” sounds—remember where they’ve stashed all this food? For me, I better right down where I put stuff or I’m stuck opening every cupboard to find what I need!

Researchers have long known about the chickadee’s impressive memory. But, until now, they didn’t understand what was happening inside the birds’ brains that enabled their amazing food-cataloguing feats! The new research shows their brains create barcode-like memories each time they deposit food—wow! This recent research could offer new insights into how humans and other mammals create and store memories. This science, for me, is definitely another only-God-can-do-it!

The scientists found out that each time a chickadee stashed food at a cache site, its hippocampus—a part of the brain responsible for learning and memory—briefly lit up with a unique pattern, similar to a barcode on an item in a store. Surprisingly, this barcode-like brain mechanism occurred independently from the activity of hippocampal neurons—this is rare. They also noticed that their neurons fired in a specific “seed code” pattern depending on whether a cache site did or did not contain a seed. Wow, an ‘Einstein’ bird indeed!

What I want to know is ‘can a chickadee help me when my memory fails me’—ha, fat chance! However, this story also reminds me that every creature God created has their very own wonders that, for we humans, can baffle our minds. Last year and now this year, we have again seen a Condor at the campground. My soul soars when I see this magnificent huge avian in the sky who was once almost extinct, but now is flying again—thank you God!

Unlike the cute chickadee with a delightful song, the Condor doesn’t sing, and like all other vulture species, the feathers and wings are gorgeous until you see that red head! But you know why that bald head is like that? This bird puts its head in carrion—dead animals! It cleans up the filth, the toxins…and by doing this bad stuff doesn’t poison our soil and waters.  Condors can eat that bad stuff so we humans and animals can be safe.

In Arizona, we have a tiny bright green frog—two inches, who does the same thing. It eats decay, giardia and other harmful stuff that can hurt or kill animals and humans. You know what this means? Everything that God has made is for a reason, for protection, for the joy of a chickadee song and so-so much more!

In Isaiah 46:4 [ERV] God says: “I will continue to take care of you until you are old, until your hair becomes grey. I made you who you are, and I will supply everything that you need. I will carry you, and I will save you.”  I love that verse because no matter what stage of life we are in, God will continue to take care of us. In fact, God will carry us and save us! Like the chickadee and all of God’s creation, we are cared for from the womb to the grave. Who else can do that? No one, only God.

God’s creation left nothing out. Even when our memory fades, our hair turns white, our eyes don’t see so well, we are still cared for every day, 24/7, by the most loving heart of our precious Lord. So, when you’re struggling with the changes, never forget that you are still held in God’s powerful hands forever. Maybe we should do what the chickadee does, sing a song of joy because the JOY of the LORD will be with us forever! AMEN.