BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND AND EASTERN NEW YORK - HOFFMANN

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NUTHATCHES: FAMILY SITTIDÆ

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH; RED-BELLIED NUTHATCH. Sitta canadensis

4.62 in.

Ad. ♂.– Upper parts bluish-gray, top of head and stripe through eye black; line over eye white; under parts reddisb-brown. Ad. ♀.— Top of head and stripe through eye bluish-gray; under parts paler.

Nest, in a hole in a tree. Eggs, white, speckled with reddish-brown.

In northern New England and New York, in tracts of spruce, the Red-bellied Nuthatch is generally an abundant permanent resident. The forests are sometimes filled with its little nasal call. At very irregular intervals, it southward in large numbers, and becomes a common fall migrant, in September and October, throughout southern New England and the Hudson Valley. After such a migration many individuals stay through the winter, and some linger till May. As an ordinary thing, however, these birds find food enough in the north, and are either entirely absent in southern New England in winter, or occur only as straggling migrants, or as rare winter visitants. When they come south, they resort either to the pines or to the Norway spruces, clinging to the cones till they extract the seeds, then flying with nervous little movements to a limb where they either hammer open the seed, or as frequently hammer it into a crevice for safe-keeping. The Red-bellied Nuthatch is a very active, restless bird, and its short tail gives it a comical air of fussiness. The ordinary call-note is a high-pitched nasal ank, ank; when the bird is excited this note is repeated very rapidly and for a long period. It has, besides, a call-note like the syllable hüt, which is often varied in pitch. Its nasal call is one or two tones higher than that of the following species.

red_bellied_nuthatch_illustration

Red-bellied Nuthatch


If a Nuthatch has bright reddish-brown under parts, there can be no doubt as to its identity, but in spring and summer the color fades, and the female in particular is almost grayish below. It must then be distinguished from the White-bellied Nuthatch by its small size, and by the black or bluish-gray line through the eye.


WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH; WHITE-BELLIED NUTHATCH. Sitta carolinensis
6.07 in.


Ad. ♂.— Upper parts grayish-blue, except the crown and front part of back, which is black; under parts white; feathers under the tail reddish-brown; tail short and square, all but the central pair of tail-feathers black, the outer ones with large white spots. Ad. ♀.— Similar to the ♂, but the black of head and back replaced by dark grayish-blue.

Nest, in a hole in a tree. Eggs, white, thickly spotted with brownish or lavender.

The White-bellied Nuthatch is a permanent resident of southern and central New England and the lower Hudson Valley, and a summer resident throughout New England and New York, but it is a local bird, and very rare in summer in many places. It spends almost its entire time on the trunks and large limbs of trees, where it hunts in a characteristic manner, sometimes peering over the sides, like a Black and White Warbler, often walking entirely around the limb, and not infrequently walking head downward on the trunk and observing an intruder with outstretched head. Unlike its relative, it rarely visits conifers, keeping chiefly to deciduous trees.

white_bellied_nuthatch_illustration

White-bellied Nuthatch


Attention is often drawn to the White-bellied Nuthatch by its nasal quank; the pitch of this call-note is very close to B-flat, though it varies to B, and it is always lower and heavier than the similar call-note of the Red-bellied Nuthatch. Its song, which it begins to utter early in March, resembles the syllables tõo-too-tão, quickly repeated. When singing, the Nuthatch generally perches on some small twig. The male brings food to the female while she is sitting.

A Nuthatch inay be identified by its long, straight, slender bill, by its manner of clinging to the trunks or large limbs of trees, and by its grayish-blue black. The White-bellied Nuthatch may be distinguished from the preceding species by its greater size, by its pure white under parts (reddish only under the tail), and most surely by the absence of a black line through the eye; the white of the fore-neck extends up a little behind the ear.


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