About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bird of the week: Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis
Order: PASSERIFORMES... Family: Nuthatches (Sittidae)

Adult Red-breasted Nuthatches have gray backs with rust-colored breasts. They have black caps and white stripes above the eyes. Females are less colorful, with a more washed-out rust color on the belly.

As they move along the trunks and branches of trees, Red-breasted Nuthatches glean bugs such as beetles, pine woodborers, and spiders. In winter, they like the seeds of fir, pine, and spruce trees. They are also common visitors at peanut, sunflower, mealworms, and suet feeders.

Unlike other nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatches do not always remain on their territories year round. We usually only see them in the winter in mid-Michigan but some may stay up north throughout the winter, depending on the state of the cone crop.

The breeding season begins in late April or early May. Both adults work to excavate a nest cavity, most commonly in a rotten stub or branch of a dead tree. Nest boxes are occasionally used. The average height of the nest is 15 feet off the ground. The nest is made of grass, rootlets, moss, shredded bark, plant fibers, hair, and fur.

Adults typically smear tree pitch around the entrance of their nest cavity, even on a nest box. The pitch is laid on generously, sometimes for a distance of several inches all around the hole. This activity is thought to deter insects, small mammals, and other birds from entering the nest cavity. Several observers have noted that Red-breasted Nuthatches have a habit of flying straight into the entrance hole, without touching the outside of the cavity first, perhaps to avoid the pitch smeared around the hole.

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