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, September 29, 2013

Small blue-gray bird with a rusty red chest

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Shorter days, a rustle in the air, and the sight of a little red is the sure sign of fall. The small Red-breasted Nuthatch is one of the friendliest birds that comes down from Canada to spend the winter with us in mid-Michigan.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Nuthatches are small, short-tailed birds with pointy black beaks and strong feet. They are fun to watch especially as they forage down tree trucks, often head-first from the top to the bottom, picking insects and grubs from the under the bark. We have the larger White-breasted Nuthatch year-round visiting the sunflower, suet and nut feeders. The red-breasted join them from September to May.

They have a blue-gray back, a rusty red breast and a black cap with a white stripe above the eye. They are about 4 ½ inches long and weigh less then ½ an ounce. Male and female red-breasted nuthatches look alike, except the female has a bluish black cap and paler underparts.

Red-breasted nuthatches are native throughout the nearctic region and are the only species in the nuthatch (Sittidae) family that migrates south in the fall. They make it a treat to fill the feeders on cold mornings when they perch just above your shoulder and cheer you on.

The nuthatches don’t stay long at the feeders though. They prefer to grab a seed and hide or cache their food to retrieve and eat at a later time. They hide hundreds of seeds all over their territory, in a behavior known as scatter-hoarding to keep their stash a secret from competitors and help them survive during bad weather and when food sources are low.

Related articles:
- Birds Move Trees http://bit.ly/oPqFgG
- Screech Owls cache uneaten prey items in cavities http://bit.ly/pJ7jCP
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker stores its food in the barks of trees http://bit.ly/nqYS7j
- Mine! All Mine: Why Squirrels Hoard http://bit.ly/qFANnl  
- Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/qq5xu1 
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/ngkPX3

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