Monday, May 28, 2012

The Brown Headed Nuthatch: Courage and Comedy

   You can't always rely on the experts, we're not supposed to have Brown Headed Nuthatches here in Roanoke, Virginia, but you better believe we do. They're supposed to be restricted to the pine forests of the Tidewater and Piedmont areas of the southeast, but somehow we've managed to have a reliable population for several years here in the mountainous southwest of the state. Small, fast, and animated like a Chickadee, the BHNH (birder code) will surely win you over if you see one, or in my case, nine! Yes, I counted nine individuals as they flew away from our feeding station, presumably two parents and seven offspring. Clutch size is usually between 3-9 eggs, so seven is not uncommon.
   Needless to say, we feel extremely fortunate to have provided a habitat for these birds, even though they didn't nest specifically here in our yard, the parents have been visiting very regularly all Spring. These little dynamos have squeaked their way into my heart, I can't help but smile any time I hear their call. You can learn more about them and listen to their unique call here at the Cornell Lab.

Courageous, because they tolerate my presence quite well, much like Chickadees and Downys.

Comedic, because, well, they sound like a dog's squeaky toy and they're just plain silly to watch.

Here's an adult BHNH accompanied by a male House Finch, for size comparison

Typical nuthatch acrobatics...

Do you think they get headaches?

Juvenile BHNHs have grey heads instead of brown


  1. Squeaky Toy! NINE squeaky toys! I am overwhelmed with jealousy....

  2. Don't be jealous, we just got lucky :) We happen to have a LOT of pine trees around us, which are essential to their needs. One more reason to advocate for leaving dead trees standing, if possible.

  3. I have nuthatches. They are adorable! And they do sound like a squeaky toy - I thing they sound like rubber ducks.

  4. sallysmom, I agree, they DO sound like rubber ducks!

  5. Absolute cuties. I've never seen a brown headed one!

  6. Fantastic! I love nuthatches, great photo of their big clasping claws for hanging upsidedown.

  7. Thanks Marc! I just checked your blog out for the first time, WOW! Gorgeous!