White-breasted Nuthatch, male
Red-breasted Nuthatch, male
Check out these amazing photos of Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches. There's nothing like digital photography to add to your birding experiences and make you see things in a new way. I just love it when I capture action shots of birds at my feeders. Sometimes I don't realize I'm getting the photo when shooting, my camera just fires away quickly. When I look at the photos later, I see birds caught flying away or landing, as here. The White-breasted Nuthatch had just taken a seed and was leaving. The Red-breasted Nuthatch was landing at an open spot on a feeder filled with Purple Finches above.
You can see such cool things about these photos. Look at the tail of the White-breasted Nuthatch and notice the white outer feathers, the black lines, and the dark spots on the outer edge. This fancy tail is not just for fun. It can be used in communication with other Nuthatches, or, possibly distracting a predator by making it focus on the tail spots. Nuthatches have a "Tail-fan-back-ruffle" display (see Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior Vol. 2) in which they ruffle their back, raise and fan their tail, and droop their wings when they are in conflicts with other nuthatches.
The Red-breasted Nuthatch photo shows how far under and up the rufous goes. The dramatic black-and-white head pattern could be disruptive coloration. It masks the eye and the true shape of the head, breaking up the image a predator may look for. By the way, there is a big irruption of Red-breasted Nuthatches into the East and Southeast happening, so be on the lookout.
Digital photography opens up a whole new world of birding and bird appreciation. It can capture a bird at a moment of time, freezing for our eyes, the wonder and amazement of this winged creature. I love it!