My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

White-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

White-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

The White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is a small songbird of the nuthatch family which breeds in old-growth woodland across much of temperate North America. It is a stocky bird, with a large head, short tail, powerful bill and strong feet. The upper parts are pale blue-gray, and the face and underparts are white. It has a black cap and a chestnut lower belly. The nine subspecies differ mainly in the color of the body plumage.

Like other nuthatches, the White-breasted Nuthatch forages for insects on trunks and branches, and is able to move head-first down trees. Seeds form a substantial part of its winter diet, as do acorns and hickory nuts that were stored by the bird in the fall. The nest is in a hole in a tree, and the breeding pair may smear insects around the entrance as a deterrent to squirrels. Adults and young may be killed by hawks, owls and snakes, and forest clearance may lead to local habitat loss, but this is a common species with no major conservation concerns over most of its range.

The White-breasted Nuthatch often travels with small mixed flocks in winter. These flocks are led by titmice and chickadees, with nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers as common attendant species. Participants in such flocks are thought to benefit in terms of foraging and predator avoidance. It is likely that the attendant species also access the information carried in the chickadees’ calls and reduce their own level of vigilance accordingly.

The White-breasted Nuthatch is monogamous, and pairs form following a courtship in which the male bows to the female, spreading his tail and drooping his wings while swaying back and forth; he also feeds her morsels of food.

On to the photos:

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

in flight

White breasted nuthatch in flight

White breasted nuthatch in flight

White breasted nuthatch in flight

This is number 39 in my photo life list, only 311 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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4 responses

  1. These birds look so much like a chickadee to me-i’ve probably seen thousands of them and didn’t even know it.

    February 23, 2013 at 7:32 am

    • They are similarly colored, but nuthatches are stocky birds usually seen working their way down a tree trunk head first. It’s not often that you see them flitting about the small branches like in my photos for this one.

      February 23, 2013 at 9:51 am

  2. Great set of pictures.

    February 23, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    • Thanks Tom!

      February 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm