White Breasted Nuthatch
With the days getting shorter it is a bit more difficult to watch the birds at our bird feeders. The weekends, of course, provide more observation time to keep track of the goings-on of these local feather balls.
As expected, we’re getting a variety of birds coming to the feeders, and the white breasted nuthatches are one of my favorites. Perhaps, like you, I’ve always been curious about their habit of climbing down tree trunks headfirst. Most birds that feed on insects in the crevices in bark work their way up tree trunks, and of course have their head up. Nuthatches don’t seem to get it. They’re “contraries.” Nuthatches see the world from a different perspective than the other birds.
Natural selection tells us that there should be an advantage to such a habit, and of course there is. Because most birds that look for insects in tree bark usually work their way up the trunk headfirst, they see and feed on insects from that visual perspective. However, because the nuthatches go in the opposite direction headfirst, they should see some insects that weren’t noticeable to the other birds. That should provide an advantage to the nuthatches because they will be able to find and eat more food for their effort. As a result, nuthatches don’t compete quite so directly with the other birds for the insects. I think you can relate to this difference in visual perspective from your driving experiences. How many times have you driven down a road one way, and upon returning, noticed something new because of the difference in your sight-line? It’s kind of that way for nuthatches.
If you don’t have a few bird feeders in your yard, consider getting at least one. They’ll provide you with hours of good entertainment, as well as help the birds. I’ve found using sunflower seeds attracts a wide variety of birds and doesn’t seem to attract the house sparrows quite as much as seed mixtures. Suet cakes are also widely used by many songbirds. Plus, it is not too early to give some consideration to giving a bird feeder as a Christmas gift.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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