Good morning everyone and Happy Groundhog Day! This is the day our groundhog friends supposedly give their annual spring forecast. We have some high profile groundhogs here and in the US that give their predictions today. Sometimes they do better than the weather forecasters. Really, it’s just some winter fun since by this time of the year people are getting a little tired of our long winters and looking forward to the arrival of spring. It goes like this, if he sees his shadow it means 6 more weeks of winter, if he doesn’t see his shadow it means an early spring. Remember, this is all just some fun. Our first groundhog has forecast an early spring, but there are two more to go. At least those 3 are the most famous. For us up here in the far north, it doesn’t matter if they see their shadow or not, either way it means an early spring for us!
Now for our nuthatch news! Red-breasted nuthatches are common around here, and we also have another one, the white-breasted nuthatch which is a bit bigger. They prefer spruce/fir forests, but will live in mixed forests as well. They are a welcome bird in orchards as they eat so many pest insects. They are often called the upside-down bird since they seem to prefer being upside down most of the time.
Most birds move up the trunk of a tree looking for insects behind the bark, these nuthatches go down head first finding insects that other birds miss. They have large hind toes that help them in their ability to hold on going downwards. They are often heard in the forest long before they are seen. Unlike the chickadee which holds a sunflower seed and hammers it open, the nuthatch is unable to do that, so it stuffs the seed into the bark of trees and hammers it open.
It’s natural food would be seeds of spruce and balsam cones, plus insects/eggs overwintering behind the bark of trees. They are easily attracted to feeders with nuts, sunflower seeds and suet. I think they eat more suet than anything, while the white-breasted nuthatch never seems to go after the suet, only sunflower seeds or chopped nuts. They can become quite tame with people, but can be aggressive with other birds, even chasing birds larger than themselves. Both parents work hard in nest building and raising the young.
Their nest is a hole in a tree about 8 inches (20cm) deep and lined with small pieces of bark, grasses and whatever else they can find. The female lays 4 to 7 eggs about 2cm long, which is actually quite large considering the size of the bird. Incubation takes 12 days and the young leave the nest in about 2 to 3 weeks. As the young get older in the nest the parents can make over 300 trips per day bringing food!
They live right across Canada, into southern Alaska and down to California and Arizona, plus to Tennessee and N. Carolina. They can sometimes move further south in winter. Guess I should stop, this is getting long. I hope you all have a wonderful day and God bless!
Steve and Muffin.
©2021 Steve McLeod.