This bird takes a walk on the wild side

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By Horace Brown

As a young boy, I called this bird the upside-down bird, because it moved up and down trees while a woodpecker only moved up.

The White-Breasted Nuthatch actually walks up, down and around tree trunks and limbs.

They are named for their habit of wedging a hard food item, such as a nut, into a bar crevice and hammering or hacking (“hatching”) it with the bill to open it.

A year-around resident, this bird’s presence as a breeding population in a certain forest area is supposed to e a good indicator that the forest is healthy.

This 5.75-inch bird, with an 11-inch wingspan, is our largest nuthatch. It is short-tailed and has a long, slightly upswept beak for probing underneath the bark.

Insects and spiders make up more than 50 percent of their food source, with the remainder made up of lots of acorns, other nuts and large seeds.

The White-breasted Nuthatch will nest in existing holes in trees, natural cavities, abandoned woodpecker holes and manmade nest boxes at a height of 15 to 50 feet above ground.

Nest building begins by late March and into April. The cavity is lined b the female with dark shreds, twigs, grasses, rootlets, fur and hair.

Five to 10 eggs are lad and incubated by the female for 12 days. There will be one brood.

So whenever you are out with nature on one of your daily walks, anytime of the year, and you see a gray-backed bird with a black cap and white stomach walking down a tree trunk, head first, singing its song of yank-yank-hank, you can rest assured that you are indeed watching the White-Breasted Nuthatch in the Great Outdoors.


To see other profiles of birds by Horace Brown, go to www.SentinelNews.com/recreation.