The White-breasted Nuthatch is the bird of the month because he just would not be ignored. At my Tuesday evening class at SGG on June 5th, I had just finished the slide presentation, which includes this bird. We then went onto the screened-in porch to view the birds coming to the feeders and suet. At the suet feeder nearest the porch, a White-breasted nuthatch was hanging upside down picking seeds out of the suet. We also saw him going to the larger feeder to get sunflower seeds. When we walked out into the gardens, I continued to hear him calling.
This is a beautiful little bird. He is about 5.75 inches in length. He is gray-blue and black on top with a white face and underbelly. His rump and flanks are a reddish-brown. You may notice him creeping down a tree trunk headfirst. He is looking for insects. He also has a very distinctive call, which he uses often. It is a nasal yenk or renk sound, which he repeats several times. While he prefers deciduous trees, he can be found in conifers. I have seen and heard him all over the gardens.
We have three species of nuthatches in Georgia: White-breasted, Red-breasted, and Brown-headed. The White-breasted is, by far, the most common. The Brown-headed is common in the Southeast, but almost nowhere else, and the Red-breasted is usually only here in winter, but not easy to find.
These three birds are called nuthatches because they have a similar eating pattern. They will take a nut, such as an acorn, and wedge it into the bark of a tree. Then they will dig out or “hatch” the seed from its outer covering with their sharp bills. The White-breasted is the largest of the four North American nuthatches. The Pygmy Nuthatch, only found in the West, is the smallest at 4.25 inches.
I was birding in Alaska a few years ago and visited a nature museum in Seward. The museum was exhibiting the water colors of a local Anchorage artist. Many of the pictures were of local birds. When I got to the picture of a Red-breasted Nuthatch, which lives year-round in Anchorage, I knew I had to have it. The artist had painted the nuthatch with its feet on a branch and its bill pointed straight up. There was such pride conveyed in that little 4.5 in. body. It seemed to be saying, “I may be small, but I’m important.” Being only 5 ft. 1 in. myself, I felt a kinship with this little nuthatch. He proudly hangs in my dining room.
You can listen to the song & call of a White-breasted Nuthatch at this link: allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-breasted_Nuthatch/id
If you would like to learn more about your Georgia backyard birds, come out to one of my classes at the Gardens: First Tuesday of the month at 5:30-7:30 pm and second Saturday of the month at 8-10 am. Check the classes section of this newsletter or call the Gardens for details.Tags: Brown Headed Nuthatch, Red Breasted Nuthatch, White Breasted Nuthatch