The Amazing Acrobat

Will Rogers,an American entertainer and humorist in the earliest 20th century is famous for saying, ” I never met a man I didn’t like.” Well, I never met a bird I didn’t like. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you probably noticed that I always end up referring to the bird I’m talking about as one of my “favorites”, but I just can’t help saying it. They are all amazing! I like to refer to my feeder visitors as “Feeder Friends” and today I wanted to talk about one of my “favorite” visitors: the White-breasted Nuthatch. I am always delighted when these little acrobats stop by to get some food. So here are 5 reasons why they should be your favorite too. πŸ™‚

White-breasted Nuthatches (Image via

1.White-breasted Nuthatches live up to their names.

Nuthatches like to take large acorns and nuts and jam them into tree barks. Then they use their sharp bills to crack the nuts open, or make them “hatch”, in order to get the food inside.

2. White-breasted Nuthatches are acrobatic tree-climbers.

If you’ve ever watched a woodpecker, you know they are masters at climbing up trees. Their feet are designed so that they can scale a tree trunk like an expert mountaineer. Unfortunately they are not so good at climbing down, so they will usually fly down instead.

However, our friend the White-breasted Nuthatch has the woodpecker beat: he can go up and down easily. And the Nuthatch is like an expert diver; he can climb down tree trunks head first with ease. They have a rear facing toe, which allow the Nuthatch to hang, tilt its head up, and scope out the landscape like a periscope. The White-breasted Nuthatch is very small (about 5-6″), so they can move from branch to branch at all different angles with speed and agility. Being able to go down head first helps Nuthatches look for insects between the tree bark. They also like to hang upside-down.

The feeding sequence (Image by Yurko via wikicommons)

3. They are faithful to each other.

In the world of birds, especially smaller song bird types, monogamy is not common. However, White-breasted Nuthatches are will stay with their partners throughout the year and may mate for life. They are non-migratory, so pairs will typically use the same nest cavity each breeding season. A male will court his partner by feeding her.

4. They work hard when it comes to getting food.

Have you ever watched a Nuthatch come and go from your feeder? They will take one piece of food at a time and usually come back multiple times. This is because they are caching their food throughout their territory. They will use lichen, bark, or even snow, to hide their food.

white-breasted nuthatch
A White-breasted Nuthatch at my feeder (Image by BirdNation)

5. Both parents work together to raise their young.

In many bird species the female will be the sole provider for her chicks but Nuthatch pairs work together to raise their brood. Adults will use a crushed insect to “sweep” the outside of their nest cavities. This helps spread a chemical secretion that deters predators from entering the nest. Both parents will feed the young, and the male will feed the female while she is incubating.

Once you start to paying attention to White-breasted Nuthatches they will always brighten your day and make you smile. These little acrobats are super cool!