The agile little Nuthatch is a common feeder bird with a really loud call. They seem to prefer the biggest seeds at the feeder too, taking the corn with swift dart-like accuracy. In for the score, then very quickly back to the tree. They are non-migratory and the adults usually remain in a territory year-round.
They have a skill that other birds seem to have picked up at my feeder too. They will take a large nut to the tree, jamb and wedge it into the bark of the tree, then stab that pointy, sharp beak into the nut repeatedly to retrieve the seed. I saw a bluejay doing something similar at my feeder in The Bluejay and the Peanut post.
The Nuthatch got its name from this peculiar behavior of hatching the seed out from inside the nut. In summer, they will eat spiders and insects. Below, the Nuthatch is using the mortar joints to look for insects and store seed in June. Imagine how intelligent a bird must be to store food for future use, then remember the location. Sounds like another animal, one that forgets often where they buried the nuts?
At my house they like the suet, but will survey the seed put out for the squirrels.
The images from Summer were taken from my backyard, but the White Breasted Nuthatch prefer old-growth, open deciduous forest, or mixed wooded areas for feeding and general habitat like found at the Falls.
The images taken today were at Niagara Falls State Park. I found these birds very difficult to photograph because they do not sit still and move with jerky motions. The motion when grasping a tree is sideways, down, up and diagonal. It is hard to anticipate where they will hop. They have very strong legs to be able to maneuver in this manner.
They seem more wary than many other birds and will not fly in close if they sense people around. I photographed them with a hand-held camera equipped with a 400 mm lens, so the images may not be as clear and well focused. I will get more and better images when in a snow-covered winter, their hunger will overtake their wariness.
They have an unusual behavior of creeping headfirst down tree trunks. They may circle the tree also as they descend. They search for insects between the crevices of the tree bark, and may also store the food for the future in this way.
“According to records at the Bird Banding Lab, 71,582 White-breasted Nuthatches have been banded since 1955. Of these, 3,114 have been recovered, representing a recovery rate of 4.35%. If you should recover a banded nuthatch, please report the band number to the Bird Banding Lab by calling 1-800-327-BAND.” This is quoted from the Chipper Woods Bird Observatory. There were about six different White Breasted Nuthatches visiting the tree where I was photographing.
In winter, Nuthatches will travel in small flocks with titmice and chickadees, along with the Downy woodpecker.
They are reported to do this as I mentioned above when food sources are provided by people or when foraging is sparse. They are more dependent on each other as a group to be better protected from predators and read each others’ behavior as certain group members remain vigilant in the mixed flock. I noticed this behavior in my own backyard with the mixed groups. One bird signals and all the others respond. They also depend heavily on the behavior of the squirrels.
As I mentioned, these little birds do make a racket and you always know when one is around.
They kinda sound like when the squirrels go at it and vocalize up a storm.
Here is the call and song from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. I would say enjoy, but really it is a kind of annoying sound. Click the Safari link below and see for yourself! If it does not play in a new window, click the Cornell link above. They have many Nuthatch bird calls to listen to. For some reason, my link of m4a format works sporadically. WP does not allow mp3 format, boo, hiss, so I had to re-compress, a really bad thing for quality too. Gripe, gripe,gripe. But H264 (MPEG -4 AVC encoding) is the best ‘new’ web based thing in video/audio compression. Any hoo… the bird calls sound pretty good considering if you can play them.
And the winners are over at the National Geographic Photo Contest 2011. And guess what won the Grand Prize!!!!! Well I am not going to show you. You have to see for yourself, but here is a hint. Like TV, I blurred it out to make you want more. Go and see, it is something we photograph all the time in our gardens just like I said in my post. I will take off my ‘see all, know all’ swami hat now! Just kidding, but I told you all that you could enter and have a shot. The photo is pretty remarkable and I really admire his great capture. Congrats x 10,000 to Shikhei Goh.