Red-breasted Nuthatch—photos and links

The Red-breasted Nuthatch’s distinctive call slices through the woodlands any time of the year; click here to hear some representative samples of what many describe as sounding like a kid’s toy trumpet.

Red-breasteds are so active and flitty that getting a photo of a male and a female together in the same frame seems to be a challenge for the Internet photographers.  However, you can get a sense of the subtle coloration differences between male and female Red-breasteds here.  This photo actually shows a juvenile (left) and an adult male (right).  (As is true with many species, a recently fledged youngster often looks very much like a female.)  The most obvious differences are the slightly lighter back and head and the paler chest and belly on the youngster.

One of the most interesting characteristics of Red-breasted Nuthatches is that the adults smear sticky pine pitch around the entrance holes of their nest cavities.  Parents and young alike are well adapted to dealing with resin at nest.  Incubating females are particularly adept at diving into nest cavity at high speeds without soiling their feathers, and both parents dive into nest with great precision to feed nestlings.  Most theorize that the sticky resin may serve as an impediment to prevent competitors or predators from entering nest cavity.  Researchers conducted an interesting experience in Arizona.  They applied conifer resin to the entrance of some nestboxes and left some entrances untouched.  House Wrens—a fierce competitor for the cavity nesting places of any small bird species—nested only in boxes without resin. Similarly, when resin was added to nest boxes that had been baited with food, red squirrels and deer mice—two persistent predators of eggs and nestling—avoided boxes with resin, suggesting that resin can reduce both competitive and predatory interactions for Red-breasted Nuthatches.


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