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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nuthatch vs the Paparazzi

A white-breasted nuthatch would like us to think it is an independent, assertive creature.
Assertive? Yes, that is true but the nuthatch often follows the crowd - the crowd of tufted titmice and black-capped chickadees, that is. 
I followed this one around the yard as it alternately chastised or ignored me.
Even the smallest crevice could hide a morsel of food.
I wondered if the nuthatch was searching new food or food it had previously hidden.
The nuthatch eats bugs and seeds and does not migrate.
Did you know the nuthatch is an auditory bi-lingual? According to the doctoral research of Christopher Templeton, nuthatches understand the intricacies of black-capped chickadee calls.  Studies of the chickadees show that they use their calls to not only tell whether predator danger comes from the sky or from the ground, but also the imminence of that danger. While we have always understood that most birds respond to the chickadee's alarm call, Templeton's studies teach us that the nuthatch actually understands  the slight variations between the calls.  It is a very interesting article written on the subject. (Eavesdropping Nuthatches)
I think my feeder birds see me as mostly a nuisance rather than a real threat. I'm that lady who magically appears right before the sunflowers and suet treats appear.  I'm also the lady who bothers them by carrying firewood much too close to their feeders and, of course, I am their paparazzi.
This particular nuthatch behaved like a true Hollywood star, dressed in its finery and making a loud noise, while trying to hide from me and my camera. 
There was no question it knew I was there.  It looked me in the eye as it gauged my distance and threat.
From the corner of the house it checked the front yard feeder. . .
. . .then, again like a true star, pretending to ignore me. Sitta carolinenses magically pushed off the stone wall, apparently hovered in mid air, looked me in the eye and disappeared into the forest.

The picture and link to the left is for  a 99 cent mp3 download of the call of a white-breasted nuthatch and will connect you to other bird call mp3 downloads.  You may see a generic add for mp3 downloads.  I see my originally chosen add sometimes on this page and sometimes see the other blinking mp3 add. Sorry if it is confusing.

The link below, "Mobbing calls . . ." is an informative paper on the calls of  black-capped chickadees.  It is not a picture book but a short e-document only available for downloading to a computer. It costs $5.95.  

Mobbing calls of Black-capped Chickadees: effects of urgency on call production.(Author Abstract): An article from: Wilson Bulletin



Arija said...

Great photos and story to match. A wonderful shot of the flying nuthatch.

Johnny Nutcase said...

ahhh i love nuthatches, all of 'em. They have all sorts of personality. Glad he let you get some photos of him! cute :)

Country Mouse said...

Nuthatches nested in a snag on our property last year and it was wonderful to watch the feeding and raising - and fledging - of the babies. I did a post on that. Great fun. Thanks for dropping by our blog!

Stephanie Berry said...

Very interesting. That last shot you go is great. Looks like the nuthatch is only jumping.