Bird of the Week


Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the nuthatch.

At this time of year, near ponderosa pines, you might see one of the three species of nuthatches found in this area working its way down the trunk of a tree.

The white-breasted nuthatch is 5 to 6 inches long with a dark crown stripe that divides the white sides of its head, otherwise only punctuated by a black eye.

The red-breasted nuthatch is 4 1/2 inches long with a black line running through the eye and a white line above. It can be found in pines, but is more common in spruce and firs at higher elevations.

The pygmy nuthatch is about 4 1/4 inches long and its dark gray cap extends down to a line through the eye. All three species of these energetic little birds eat nuts, seeds and small invertebrates. They carry the larger nuts and seeds to crevices in the bark of trees and hammer them with their long beaks to “hatch” them open. They also will store nuts and seeds in these bark crevices. One theory as to why they prefer to travel upside-down is so they can better see into the crevices in the bark.

Nuthatches like to travel in groups, often of mixed species of other small birds. Perhaps this provides safety with more eyes to spot potential predators. At night, they huddle together for warmth, usually in tree holes. Over 100 pygmy nuthatches have been observed flying into one tree hole.