We have a new visitor at our bird feeder: a red-breasted nuthatch. Danny first noticed the unfamiliar bird on Sunday, but I did not get to see it. Monday morning when I refilled the seeds, the newcomer landed on the feeder as I was lifting it into place.
Nuthatches are named for their habit of wedging a seed in a crack and pecking to open it. That is precisely what it was doing (in the photo above) with the crack in our deck rail. The crumbs of its labour are visible. Also note the strong hind toe, which allows the bird to forage headfirst down the trunks of trees. Unlike woodpeckers, which move up the tree, nuthatches start at the top and work down.
I remember one winter my friend, Darlene, was delighted to encounter a nuthatch on Long Island, NY. They often flock with chickadees and are even bolder, and may be the first to accept nuts from the hand. I grabbed some cashews from indoors and offered them on my outstretched palm beside the feeder, but the nuthatch was too preoccupied with sunflower seeds.
Our Sitta canadensis reappeared through the week. Unfortunately it seems to have picked up the other birds’ wariness. The bird probably arrived by accident, perhaps displaced by thunderstorms over the weekend. It must have been particularly disoriented and hungry. Perhaps I was the first human it had interacted with.
I hope it will stick around for the winter. It remains bolder than the other birds, so sooner or later it might feed from our hands. Meanwhile, I look forward to getting to know this energetic little character. It is a welcome addition to our backyard neighbourhood. It is stunning to see the blue-grey nuthatch beside a bright yellow American goldfinch beside a red house finch, but only one of the trio will let me approach closely enough to take a decent picture.