The Red-breasted Nuthatch

September 20, 2015

There are two species of nuthatches that can be found at Mount Auburn, the White-breasted Nuthatch is one that actually could be found on every day of the year and the Red-breasted Nuthatch which is more of an irruptive species. An irruptive species moves southward in unusually high numbers during some years, often it can be tied into the food supply where the bird is breeding. In the case of the Red-breasted Nuthatch , which prefers to breed in the spruce forest of the northern woods the cone crop could fail and produce fewer seeds sending them south in search of food. 

The Red-breasted is almost always found in evergreen trees; listen for their nasal yank, yank call as they move up and down the trunks and branches of conifer trees.  The Red-breasted is smaller than the White-breasted and is easily distinguished, the most reliable characteristic is the wide black eye stripe, darker blue-gray back and the red or ruddy breast which range from a real dark red to a sometimes barely pale wash of pink. The females are very similar though tend to be paler than the males

The Red-breasted Nuthatch readily responds to tapes and spishing and especially the imitations of screech owl calls. Look for it in the Dell or any conifer tree; the Red-breast will also come to feeders where it favors sunflower seeds.

Red-breasted Nuthatch, photo by Jeremiah Trimble

About the Author: Bob Stymeist

Bob Stymeist is Bird Observer’s Bird Sightings Compiler and a regular bird walk leader for the Friends of Mount Auburn.

View all posts by Bob Stymeist →

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