Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) Male photos by Larry Jordan
The Red-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta canadensis) that came to my home about a month ago are still here! The male shown above (click on photos for full sized images) is distinguished from the female shown below by his black forehead, crown and nape.
The top of the female’s head is a more bluish-gray rather than black and her underparts are paler than the male’s.
This appears to be a female showing that nuthatches can not only walk up or down tree trunks probing crevices in the bark for insects, they can also traverse the underside of branches if they are so inclined.
You can see on this range map, courtesy of Terry Sohl of South Dakota Birds and Birding, that the Red-breasted Nuthatch has a fairly large North American distribution as a permanent resident.
If you recall, I mentioned in my Labor Day weekend post that this was a new bird added to my mythical yard list, but I assumed they were just passing through. Little did I know that the Red-breasted Nuthatch was unique among the North American nuthatches as the only species to undergo regular irruptive movements that appear to be primarily driven by a shortage of winter food on their breeding grounds.
During irruption years, large numbers of individuals often invade uncharacteristic habitats as far south as the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and the desert washes of northern Mexico. With its propensity for long-distance movements, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is the only North American nuthatch to have crossed the Atlantic to Europe as a vagrant1.
They are definitely spunky little nuthatches! They showed no fear of me and my camera as visited the feeders and the pond.
They feed mainly on arthropods during breeding season but conifer seeds the rest of the year which they also cache for a winter food supply.
They also breed in mix coniferous forest so my hope is that these visitors might make this a permanent home as the White-breasted Nuthatches have, although the Red-breasted Nuthatch rarely uses nest boxes.
I leave you with a shot of the the male visiting the waterfall and a short video as well.
References: 1Birds of North America Online