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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

White-breasted Nuthatch

We've been hearing White-breasted Nuthatches singing their, "wer-wer-wer-wer" song. Not the most musical or exciting sound, but it accomplishes their purpose, to define a nesting territory (of about 25-45 acres) and attract a mate.

Years ago when we first started our publisheing career, we wrote 3 volumes of Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, which documented the lives and behavior of 25 species in each volume. We would research all that was published, then spend many hours in the field following and watching all the behavior of each species. We saw White-breasted Nuthatches do some fascinating behavior, including sweeping the entrance around their nest hole with crushed insects or bits of fur. It has been suggested that this leaves a scent that deters squirrels and other mammal predators from the nest.

Nuthatches store bits of food under bark. We once saw a nuthatch come to near its nest hole and store food under the bark. A second nuthatch who was on the same tree, saw it coming, went and hid on the backside of the tree, and when it was gone, went around to the front of the tree and stole the bit of food!

Birds are always doing fascinating behavior, which you can see, if you take the time to look.


NCmountainwoman said...

We caught some very interesting nuthatch behavior last week. Two White-breasted Nuthatches systematically and thoroughly pulled out all the nesting material from one of our nesting boxes. They spent all day on the task and came back the next day to finish it. They did not use the material and so far have not shown any further interest.

Alan said...

Very interesting info about the nuthatch.
Your right, there's a lot to see if we just take the time to look.

caroline said...

We had a pair of red-breasted nuthatches choose one of my bluebird/swallow houses to nest in several summers ago. Their tactic was to smear pitch from the ponderosa pines in the yard all around the hole. It made a colossal mess on a hot day, but they seemed happy with it. Babies fledged successfully and nothing seemed to bother the nestbox.
Caroline Stafford
44N 103.3W

Eric said...

> 25-45 acres

Wow, that's alot! For a single pair?

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Yes, the Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior. I have all three volumes, and boy do they get used during the spring and nesting season. I'll register my vote (again) to return them to print. They are GREAT books.

Just Watchin' said...

We saw some unusual behavior on our feeding pole. A Hairy Woodpecker was on a cross piece getting ready to hop on the suet. A Nuthatch landed on the cross piece opposite the woodpecker, faced him, spread its wings out to the sides, fanned out its tail feathers and swayed side to side. It repeated this several times. The woodpecker didn't seem very impressed but it did entertain us. Anyone seen this before? What is it?

Adrian said...

To Just Watchin'...
I just witnessed this exact thing, with a Hairy woodpecker who was on the suet. From above, the nuthatch fanned out and twirled around -- quite a show! The woodpecker left!

Gala Lass said...

In mid June I had a simaliar experiance.Mr King(he thinks) nuthatch was on a big tree. He flies there after getting a sunflower seed from the
feeders.A tufted teet mouse was on
a dead branch of the tree. He
runs at the tmouse and flairs his
tail and wings. The day before he
had jumped down on the deck railing, fluffed feathers out on his body spread his wings and tail and spun around in a circle.I have 4 feeders on the deck. If they get down to half full he feels his food
supply dwindling.He thinks he can scare the other birds off. These birds are
fasinating to watch.

Louise said...

We have just observed this same behavior, also near a suet feeder. It was beautiful. Reminded me of a model striking fantastic poses for the camera. This nuthatch was doing most of its posing upside down on the angled feeder pole. I have some stunning photos of this behavior. Is there a way I can post them here?