We just love watching the various birds that visit the backyard feeders. Most of the feeders are set up so they are within good viewing distance of the windows.
The cameras are always ready to capture the birds through our lenses. We are getting much better at identification but the birding books are always close at hand. We’ve learned to look at beaks, eye markings, belly colours, tail lengths and more.
Nuthatches, sometimes called the upside down birds, are the birds that go down the tree head first. There are 2 varieties of nuthatch … the white breasted and the red breasted that visit the backyard. Looking quickly you might think they are the same bird but there are a few differences. If you are unsure which type you are seeing, perhaps these photos will help you out. There are 17 species of nuthatches in the world with 3 of those species common in Canada … red breasted, white breasted, and pygmy.
The red breasted or Sitta canadensis is the slightly smaller of the two. There is a blush of red-orange on its chest. It also has a streak of white on its head by the eyes. It can usually be seen upside down on the peanut feeder or moving downward on the tree trunks.
You can see the long beak, great for pecking into peanuts. It loves this particular peanut feeder (as do the woodpeckers) and it seems we are constantly filling it. Here you can see the dark eye stripe of the red breasted nuthatch. The short tail is an adaptation that helps it move downward on trees.
From time to time it sits the right way up. They nest in tree cavities and will have from 4 to 10 eggs.
This is the white breasted or Sitta carolinensis nuthatch which is a little larger than the red breasted nuthatch. It has a white breast and a black head and a bluish gray back. This is a characteristic pose of the nuthatch … upside down with its head poking out.
They will hop downwards on tree trunks looking for insects. This makes them omnivorous which means eating both insects and seeds.
Both are year round residents in our part of Ontario but we see them more frequently in the winter when they love to visit the feeders. Notice the difference in the markings around the eyes and the colouring on the bellies.
Do you have nuthatches visiting your feeders? What variety are they?
ABC Wednesday is up to N. N for nuthatches.