Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Doo, Doo, Doo, Looking Out My Backdoor IV: White-breasted Nuthatch
Nuthatch is derived from a European word, "hatch," probably meaning to "hack" open a nut. This photo is a good photo for seeing it's identifying features. Males and females are exactly the same except that the male's color is more intense. The best way to tell them apart is to see them together. My experience has been that they mate for life although the books say it mates for a season. You almost never see one without the other, however. Notice the slightly upturned lower bill which is not seen on many other birds.
If you see a bird on the trunk of a tree traveling down rather than up the tree, it is almost certainly a nuthatch. They are almost the only bird that can do this. Notice how, if the bird in this photo were resting on a horizontal surface, it's head would be looking straight up in the air. This "L-shaped" stance comes very naturally to a nuthatch. A look at their skeleton would probably reveal quite a difference between their spine and that of most other birds - but, I'm just speculating.
In this photo you can see the advantage of the very long backward facing toe by which they are able to hang in a downward direction. It is thought that because they are able to descend on a tree trunk, they are able to find insects that escape the notice of woodpeckers and creepers that travel in the other direction. The snow in this photo adds a lovely blue background. Snow, especially in shaded areas, is actually very blue, but our minds translate the color because we know snow is white. As a photographer, you almost have to force yourself to examine the "real" color that is present.
Here is something many birds do occasionally, but the nuthatches that come to the feeder do quite a bit. They "puff" themselves up in an attempt to make themselves look larger and, therefore, more intimidating in an attempt to scare other birds from the feeder. They are actually quite shy and don't like to be on the feeder with other birds. They will puff themselves up like this and rock back and forth, looking to see if it worked. It is amusing to watch.