Friday, February 14, 2014

Winter Birds...


If you have a home feeding station in a winter-like environment chances are your already familiar with Nuthatches, members of the bird family Sittidae. Apparently the moniker of ‘nuthatch’ is, in part derived from an older English name of “nuthack” due to their habit of wedging nuts and other food in tree crevices before hacking them open with its long, sturdy bill.
(Click on image to see a larger version)
Red Breasted Nuthatch
 
The first bird pictured here is a red-breasted nuthatch, one of the four members of the family that reside in North America, the others are the white-breasted, brown-headed and pygmy nuthatches. Worldwide a total of 22 types of nuthatches have been identified.


Red breasted nuthatch climbing downward
The nuthatch is a cavity nester that often filling it’s nest with twigs, moss, mammal hair and feathers. Both sexes help with the nest construction. Once eggs are laid incubation lasts 12 to 14 days and is mainly the female's chore.


These are a thickset, stub-tailed, active little birds often seen scurrying down tree trunks headfirst. When climbing down tree trunks, nuthatches depend entirely upon their claws. The stance shown in this image is a classic nuthatch stretch, one foot forward under the breast and the other back under the tail. This movement allows the birds to travel nimbly down the trees, digging in with their strong hind toes. The strategic advantage for these birds to climb downward is their ability to find food in bark crevices overlooked by birds that climb upward like tree creepers and small woodpeckers.
Red breasted nuthatch clinging to the bark of a Ponderosa pine tree
 

Mountain Chickadee
At -5* the morning this image was created, this small mountain chickadee is all fluffed up to keep what little body heat it has in place. For this diminutive creature to survive these frigid nights, it can put on fat equal to 10% of its body weight in one day, and burn it off using selective muscle shivering by the early morning hour. Go figure that formula out for your body size. The smaller the bird, the harder it is to stay warm, and the more food it requires for its size. These winter foragers frequent my feeders daily for oil-rich sunflower seeds and nuts. While I enjoy feeding and having the birds here during the winter months, the research of Dr. Thomas Grubb of Ohio State University, shows that these small birds get through the winter season in better nutritional condition if they have access to bird feeders. Works for me... 
Mountain Chickadee on Ponderosa Pine Branch





 

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1 comment:

Wet Coasters said...

Beautiful pictures! It is hard to get clear pictures of these birds because they never seem to hold still for long enough. I am feeding the black oil sunflower seeds and suet I get from the butcher. We also are feeding two pairs of Anna's Hummingbirds that over winter here in Ladysmith. I love feeding the birds, they add another dimension to our environment in the winter that would otherwise be missing.