Guest blog from Steven Price, President, Birds Studies Canada
Nuthatches have always been a bird-feeder favourite of mine. Two species – Red-breasted and White-breasted – range across most of the country. (A third species, Pygmy Nuthatch, is limited in Canada to B.C.’s southern Interior.) The Red-breasted likes coniferous woods, while the White-breasted prefers deciduous, and both can be found in mixed woods. Helpfully, the names are the best way to distinguish them. But don’t be fooled – the Red-breasted has a bit of white near the throat, and the White-breasted has a rusty patch under its tail. The White-breasted is noticeably bigger, too.
Red-breasted Nuthatch White-breasted Nuthatch
Photo credit: May Haga Photo credit: Ron Ridout
If you’ve been feeding birds for some time, you’ve probably seen both, very deliberately taking one seed at a time and retreating to a branch or tree trunk, where they tuck food in cracks and under bark for later use – provided jays, woodpeckers, or squirrels don’t discover it first! Nuthatches are fascinating birds to watch, as they saunter upside-down on a tree or straight along the underside of a branch. In winters of fewer pine and spruce cones, Red-breasted Nuthatches will migrate in large numbers – east, west, or south – in search of productive trees. Or your garden’s well-stocked feeder!
Bird Studies Canada