We have some red-breasted nuthatches hitting our bird feeders. We don’t get to see them very often, so seeing them over the past few weeks has been like getting reacquainted with an old friend.
The white-breasted nuthatch, of course, is one of the more common visitors to our bird feeders throughout the year. The red-breasted nuthatch is noticeably smaller than its white-breasted cousin. As the name implies, the underside is reddish or rusty colored and there is a quite distinctive black strip running through the eye.
Unlike white-breasted nuthatches which are permanent residents in our area, the red-breasted nuthatches typically spend their summers in the coniferous forest across much of Canada and the Rocky Mountains. We are near the edge of their winter range, which includes much of the U.S. south and east of North Dakota.
The red-breasted nuthatch is listed by the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center as rare during the winter in North Dakota. So, I suppose we can expect to see them on a rather irregular basis, however, they are known for their periodic “irruptions” further south of their normal range if the seed crop of conifers is low. Maybe this is one of those years.
By the way, if you’re interested in a bird checklist for your area of the state, you might want to check out those posted on the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center’s website.
When I’ve been outside, I’ve also spotted the red-breasted nuthatches after hearing their call, which has been described as a nasal “annk.” It’s similar to the white-breasted nuthatch’s soft and nasal “what, what, what” with a little higher pitch. So, listen for that nasal “aank, annk, annk” when you are outside!
So make sure your feeders are well stocked with sunflowers and suet, and keep your eyes and ears open for this old friend that is back in the area. You too may renew an old acquaintance, or perhaps find a new friend.
They’ve been hitting both our sunflower and suet feeder regularly. I have also been able to see them working the upper branches of the aspen near our house for insects and perhaps some small seeds.
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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