Bird of the day: White-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

White-breasted nuthatch on pine trunk
White-breasted nuthatch on pine trunk. Madison, Wis., October 25, 2017.

White-breasted nuthatches live here year-round, but are easier to spot in the winter when the leaves have fallen from the trees—though this one was in a pine-tree, so it actually wasn’t all that easy to spot. I only caught sight of it after following the flight of a different bird over to the pine and noticing the white-breasted nuthatch’s familiar, jerky movements along the trunk.

However, you often don’t need to look for them at all. They’re a noisy bunch, with a sharp chatter that calls attention to itself. You can listen to it on the white-breasted nuthatch page of All About Birds.

And no, I didn’t drop my camera upside-down. Nuthatches forage for food by hopping downward on tree branches and trunks. Other birds who compete for similar food sources, such as woodpeckers, typically hunt and forage by hopping upward. Nuthatches’ alternate hunting technique lets them see food their competitors might miss.

I have seen two kinds of nuthatches in my backyard: white-breasted nuthatches and red-breasted nuthatches. The latter are much less common for me to see, possibly because they are about half the mass of the white-breasted ones. But their call is even more distinctive, like a cross between a squeak and an old bicycle horn. You can find call recordings here.

White-breasted nuthatch upside-down on pine trunk
White-breasted nuthatch on pine trunk. Madison, Wis., October 25, 2017

Check out more of my birding posts.

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