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Bird of the Week: Red-breasted Nuthatch

Found throughout the continental US and southern Canada, the Red-breasted Nuthatch’s nasal “yenk yenk” call can be heard year-round. This small songbird is smaller than the more common White-breasted Nuthatch and can be identified by its distinctive white throat, bluish back, black stripe through its eyes, and reddish orange breast. This bird is typically seen foraging for insects, like beetles, caterpillars, and ants, under the bark of tree trunks in mature forests. Its toes are adapted to allow the nuthatch to climb down tree trunks upside down! Woodpeckers, which are also known for climbing tree trunks, would fall off the tree if they tried to forage upside down. During the fall and winter, the nuthatch stores nuts and seeds in small caches in crevices in bark and under branches. The nuthatch will visit those caches throughout the winter to survive until insects emerge in the spring. During the spring, the nuthatch excavates a nest cavity in a tree and lines it with vegetation, fur, or feathers on which to lay its eggs. This bird will smear sticky sap around the entrances to their nests to deter predators (the nuthatch avoids the sap by diving directly through the hole). Keep your eyes and ears out for this quick-moving bird the next time you visit your Metroparks!

Listen to the Red-breasted Nuthatch’s call here.

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