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Apr 16, 2010

The "upside-down bird"

Kenn Kaufman, in his Lives of North American Birds book, calls nuthatches the "upside-down birds". The photo, at left, which I took recently, neatly illustrates that description. Nuthatches have extremely strong toes and claws, with which to grip bark and other uneven surfaces. It also helps if you only weigh 10.5 to 13 grams, as is the case with the Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) pictured here. This captivating little bird is found in every continental U.S. state and every Canadian province.
Mid-April to early May marks the start of the breeding season for many birds in this neck of the woods. The male Red-breasted Nuthatch, having caught the eye of a female, performs as follows: he turns his back on the lady (seems non-productive), points his head in the air, droops his wings, and sways from side to side. This doesn't sound very alluring but maybe it helps him to 'shake his booty' in a sexy way. Appearances notwithstanding, it seems to work quite well, as there are always plenty of Red-breasted Nuthatches about. The male feeds the female, both on and off the nest, and both parents feed the nestlings. They seem content to raise just one brood a year. Sounds all very dutiful and practical to me, which is good because we all need lots of nuthatches around and about, to entertain us.

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