Species Spotlight: White-Breasted Nuthatch

Categories: Species Spotlight

 

White-Breasted Nuthatch diet

White-Breasted Nuthatches prefer feeding on insects, but they are also frequent bird feeder visitors.

If you have a suet or box feeder in your backyard, then more than likely you recognize this distinctive gray, black and white bird. The White-breasted Nuthatch is common in North America and its nasally call can be heard all year long. These vocal birds can normally be spotted in monogamous pairs in wooded areas searching for food.

Environment and Habitat

This specific variety of nuthatch can be found year round in the United States and parts of Canada, Mexico, and Central America. While the White-breasted population is said to be dwindling in the Southeastern United States, the species is growing globally with an estimated breeding population of 9.2 million.

Because the White-breasted Nuthatch habitually wedges its excess food into tree bark crevices, this distinct bird can often be spotted in dense wooded areas or open spaces with large trees. Its smaller, sister species — the Red-Breasted Nuthatch — resides mainly in coniferous forests, whereas the White-breasted Nuthatch finds its habitat in deciduous forests. The species makes its home in a tree’s natural cavities or in the holes of dead trees. While instinctually the bird is attracted to the deep woods, the White-breasted Nuthatch is often seen at backyard bird feeders.

Feeding

Although it is recognized as a common feeder bird, during the summer in its natural habitat the White-breasted Nuthatch feeds on insects like beetles, ants, and caterpillars. Oftentimes during the winter, it joins flocks of chickadees or titmice to forage along tree trunks, limbs, and occasionally the ground for seeds. By joining together with a bigger flock, the Nuthatch is able to find food more easily and remain protected from predators.

Any feeder can be a nuthatch feeder. Why? Because feeders stocked with suet, peanut-butter, and large nuts, like sunflower seeds and peanuts, attract these birds to backyards all around North America. If a White-breasted is spotted making countless trips to a particular feeder consistently, it is likely that it may be transporting the seeds to be stored in the bark of a nearby tree.

 

White-Breasted Nuthatch ID

The White-breasted Nuthatch (sitta carolinensis) has a wingspan that is longer than their body.

Appearance and Identification

The largest of the Nuthatch family, the White-breasted typically averages between 5.1-5.5 inches in length. Its wingspan is longer than its body length ranging between 7.9-10.6 inches and the bird often weighs between 0.6 and 1.1 ounces. Its forceful beak and strong feet help the creature feed and forage along the bark of trees.

A male White-breasted can be easily spotted by its black crown and neck, contrasting white face and belly, and blue, black, gray and white wing markings. Typically, the female’s coloring appears more dull with a paler crown and a darker nape. The appearance of a female White-breasted Nuthatch may vary in different regions. For instance, in the Southeast its head pattern and coloring may more closely resemble that of the male White-breasted. A White-breasted that has not yet reached full maturity often resembles the adult, but lacks the coloring definition on its wings and often appears more brownish gray in color.

Mannerisms and Social Habits

This songbird is extremely vocal and is usually heard long before it can be sighted. A White-breasted Nuthatch call varies between subspecies, but its song is heard as a constant stream of repeated nasal whistles several seconds in length. The male’s song can be heard in the last few months of winter and throughout the spring. Its more rapid song is considered to be used to attract mates. The call of both the male and females maintain a trembling quality, referred to as a yank.

This particular species of nuthatch is often spotted in pairs or mates that often forage for food together. When traveling in pairs, while the male is scanning wooded areas for food, the female often acts as the “lookout”working to protect the male from predators. When foraging for insects and seeds, this songbird scales tree trunk and limbs up, down, and sideways chipping away at the bark and probing the surfaces for available food. The species even stores excess food in open crevices throughout their territory of the woods.

White-breasted Nuthatches are territorial creatures. Because they do not migrate, nuthatch pairs store food in, and defend, small wooded areas that they claim as their own. When their territory is threatened, this nuthatch will ruffle and raise its feathers and flick its wings to intimidate an invading bird.

White-Breasted Nuthatch Seed

The female White-breasted nuthatch will lay a clutch of 5-9 eggs once a year.

Nesting

Once a year, White-breasted Nuthatches lay between five and nine spotted eggs. While the female incubates the eggs, the male will bring her food. Exclusively, the females will build nests in a natural cavity of a tree or a woodpecker hole that is at least one foot off the ground. The female White-Breasted Nuthatch lines the vacant space with bark fiber, grass, and twigs for their offspring. Occasionally, the Nuthatch will line the nest with mud and crush an insect around the perimeter of the nest to repel predators.

The White-breasted Nuthatch is the perfect bird to observe in your very own backyard all year long. Its active, unique behavior and chipper calls make for an interesting and beautiful show!

 

 

 

 

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Bird Migration: Birds of the Mississippi Flyway

Categories: Wild Bird

Mississippi flyway bird migration  route

Many birds use the Mississippi Flyway as they migrate each year. This bird migration route flows from South America into Canada.

With Spring slowly creeping northward, birds are also beginning their migrations to their summer ranges. For the average backyard bird-lover, that can mean a surge of new visitors to feeders.

In the so-called Mississippi flyway, a bird migration pattern that goes through the middle of North America, birds tend to trace the path of the world-famous river and its tributaries as they work their way across the U.S., and, for some, up into Canada.

Mississippi Flyway

The Mississippi Flyway follows the world famous river into Canada.

BIRD MIGRATION: MISSISSIPPI FLYWAY

The states generally covered by the Mississippi flyway include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Much of Canada is also included in the flyway. The provinces and territories these birds head toward include Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon Territory.

The other flyways include the Central, the Pacific and the Atlantic. It should be noted that some maps include slightly different or a smaller range of states for each flyway. We opted to be more inclusive in which states reside in which flyway.

LIST OF MIGRATORY BIRDS

The list of birds using any flyway is vast. Nearly half of all birds that migrate use this route, and about 40 percent of all waterfowl use it. One estimate suggests that 326 species use the flyway.

 

Bullock's Oriole migration

The Bullock’s Oriole migration route takes it through western side of the Mississippi Flyway.

Among those species, there are plenty of feeder birds, including:

HOW YOU CAN HELP

With all these birds moving through the North American flyways, it’s very important to offer them easy to access food and water.

Even with the burgeoning spring weather, a bird feeder is a great help to a migrating bird that’s been flying for hours. They would much rather chow down on some easy-to-find sunflower seeds than spend hours rooting around a muddy field for a few beaks of seed.

Water is also important for migrating birds. The water you provide is often much cleaner than what they can find in nature, especially after a long winter. This is because its often polluted by the runoff from salts, fertilizer and other chemicals used on highways, yards and farmland.

For hummingbird migration, we ask that you log any hummingbird sightings on the Perky-Pet Hummingbird Migration Map.

Look for more “How You Can Help” tips in our upcoming articles covering the Pacific, Central and Atlantic flyways.

RECOMMENDED FEEDERS

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Migration

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds migrate into North America along the Mississippi Flyway. Bring them into your yard with some well-placed feeders.

The list of feeder birds above is huge and you’re sure to be able to help a lot of them with feeders from birdfeeders.com.

A few ideas:

  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds: If you’re not sure that you have ruby-throated hummingbirds in your area, try the inexpensive Round Glass Hummingbird Feeder to see if any will show up. Then try the remarkably cute Fairy Dust Glass Feeder to really make a statement.
  • Orioles: Your oriole friends will thank you for offering them some nectar or jelly. In fact, if you’ll find a number of birds will enjoy our jelly feeder, including robins. The Deluxe Oriole Nectar Feeder includes a number of oriole-attracting features.
  • Finches: One thing about feeding finches is that you can very selectively opt to feed them with specific feeders and seed. By doing so, you won’t have any nuisance birds or squirrels digging through your feeder. The new All-in-One Finch Feeder is one of your best bets for finches.
  • Large birds: Some of the larger birds on the list need to have a broad area to land on, so feeding them can sometimes be difficult. Try the Squirrel Be Gone II Home Style feeder, which also keeps squirrels from your bird seed. Another option is the Tall Tulip, which has a wide seed tray that wraps around the entire feeder.

Indigo Bunting migration

The Indigo Bunting’s migration route follows the Mississippi Flyway.

 

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Perky-Pet® teams with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary for educational workshop

Categories: Wild Bird

Male American Kestrel

Learn about the American Kestrel in a workshop provided by Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

Perky-Pet® is joining with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, a nationally renowned scientific research center and nature preserve dedicated to educating the public on birds of prey and the benefits they bring to the ecosystem, for a special educational opportunity for elementary and middle school teachers.

On March 27, the organization, which is based in central Pennsylvania, is planning a daylong workshop for teachers. The American Kestrel Webcam Workshop will include a number of helpful tools for teachers, including lesson plans for young students, details on the sanctuary’s kestrel webcams, access to its video clip collection and instruction on the birds and their life cycle.

Teachers who complete the course earn a free classroom visit by Hawk Mountain staff members and a live kestrel. You know kids will be excited by that! The event also includes a number of great freebies for a teacher’s classroom, including a Perky-Pet® bird feeder and Lyric® bird seed.

We wanted to help get the word out about the workshop, so we contacted Erin Brown, Director of Education at Hawk Mountain, to ask her a few questions about working there and her plans for the upcoming program.

Q: What is Hawk Mountain and how did you come to work there?logo-hawk-mountain

EB: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is the world’s first refuge for bird of prey. It was founded in 1934 by Rosalie Edge, who leased and then purchased the land in order to stop the shooting of migrating hawks along the Kittatinny Ridge.

HMS was looking for a director with a strong informal education background, formal classroom background and experience in raptor education and handling. It was as though the job description was written just for me!
I spent 10 years as a naturalist and environmental educator at Tuscarora and Locust Lake State Parks in Pennsylvania. I then spent seven years as a life science teacher at a middle school, where in addition to teaching I managed the school’s environmental site. I also had long-time volun­teer work with the captive raptors at the Carbon County Environmental Center. It’s my dream job.

Q: What will teachers do at the American Kestrel Webcam Workshop? What additional support do you provide educators who use your lesson plans?

Female American Kestrel

The Hawk Mountain Sanctuary American Kestrel Webcam Workshop will help teachers explain the importance of birds of prey.

EB: Teachers will receive a presentation about the natural history of kestrels and what we know about them from the research we’ve been doing on kestrels for the past 30 years.

This will be followed by an overview of our raptor website and how it can be used in education. I will show them how to access the webcam from our website and our videoclip files. We will also go over lesson plans and journal writing ideas.

Teachers will have a live kestrel program the day of the workshop. They will receive kestrel books, posters, and other items for their own use in order to help them in the classroom. Teachers will also be oriented to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Sleuth curriculum.

Following the workshop, we hope to create a blog for use with classrooms. A follow-up live kestrel program at each teacher’s school will also take place. At this time, students can ask all of the questions they have developed over the nesting period.

Q: What makes raptor education important?

EB: There are still a lot of misconceptions among people about raptors. I think the goal of raptor education at HMS is two-fold. One, to take the most current research and information being discovered by our research biologists and including it in programs for students and visitors, teacher workshops, and new curricula. Two, to help people to understand the role of raptors in the environment. They are predators maintaining the balance of predator and prey in an ecosystem. They are also environmental indicators, in that their presence or absence can tell us about the health of that ecosystem.

Q: Any tips on how to start a similar program in other regions?

EB: Hawk Mountain serves as a model for other raptor education and conservation organizations. All programs and materials that we create are made available to other organizations. We would be eager to help other organizations start a similar program in their area! Feel free to contact us.

We are also a scientific research center, an international conservation training site, and leading raptor education organization.

Looking for information about raptors? Check out the center’s Raptorpedia, which explains why their location is so raptor friendly, as well as a field guide to spotting birds of prey.

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Prepare your yard and your bird feeders for spring

Categories: Seasonal Bird Feeding

Nuthatch migration

With the arrival of spring, birds are on the move. Some will migrate out of your area and others will settle in for the summer.

Though many in the North are still struggling with winter’s lingering effects, some of us are starting to see the slow transformation of the winter landscape. Yes, little by little, spring is edging closer and closer.For people who love their bird feeders, it’s a good time to prepare for the birds migrating into our backyards. That can mean new arrivals and the departure of our winter residents as they move farther north to their breeding grounds.

This transition is the perfect time to perform maintenance on all the parts of our yards that make them so attractive to our birds.

Clean up hulls

If you’ve been feeding birds all winter, then you will want to clean up any mess that’s been left under the feeders. You’re likely to find a thick carpet of shelled seeds mixed in with some seeds that are still intact. Get a rake and shovel, scoop all this material up and dispose it. This material can get moldy and get your birds sick if they consume it. Further, the uneaten seed may start sprouting or attract some unwanted pests.

Bring out waterers

Early on in the spring, bring out any bird waterers you may have. Migrant birds will definitely appreciate a source of fresh, clean water. Birds that stay in your area will soon come to rely on your waterers, so make sure they stay full and clean.

Clean old feeders

As more natural food becomes abundant, you have a great opportunity to remove and thoroughly clean your seed feeders. Mix a 9-part water/1-part bleach solution to soak and scrub your feeders. Rinse and allow to drip-dry before refilling with seed.

Bring out seasonal feeders

The spring is a key time for birds that use specialty feeders — namely hummingbirds and orioles. Try having these feeders up before these birds arrive in your area. Doing so will increase the chances they’ll stay in the area rather than move on to other feeding grounds. You probably cleaned these feeders in the fall when you put them away, but it can’t hurt to clean them again.

Try out new feeders

The spring is also a great time to test a new feeder on the birds in your area. Perky-Pet’s new All-in-One Finch Feeder is a great way to bring goldfinches to your yard. Our line of K-Feeders® include this four-compartment feeder that delivers multiple seed types. Hummingbird lovers will enjoy the elegant looks of our copper and glass hummingbird feeder.

Leave nests as is

Old nests in trees

Leave old nests intact so they can be used by another generation of birds.

With your trees still bare, you probably see a few nests in the crooks of limbs on your property. Unless the nests are in a bad location for you — that is the birds last year created a huge mess underneath — then leave the nest right where it is. It survived your winter, so it’s well built and could be used again this year.

Provide more perches

If you live in a newer house, it may also mean that your property has very few opportunities for birds. Your feathered friends need perches to rest on, watch for predators and even spend the night. Try adding a few trees or low-leaf density shrubs to help your seed-loving visitors. Not ready to plant? Try setting up some hanging perches or other poles where birds can rest and take in the view. You can also leave downed limbs or ailing bushes in place, since many birds prefer these sorts of cover.

Set up new nest boxes

Whether you buy or build your own nest boxes, adding them to your property can be a huge help to birds that breed in your area. Just remember that many birds can be very picky about where they nest, and setting up a new nest box isn’t as simple as nailing it to a fence post. Get some ideas on nest box requirements before you add any to your property.

Protect your property

As your new visitors arrive, they may also start looking for new places to nest — places where you don’t want them to nest! Take a look around your sheds, porches, patios and decks. Are their any new items that might attract a nesting bird? High sitting platforms and newly opened crevasses could entice some birds to set up shop! Seal up any holes and block those platforms to make them useless to a bird.

These simple tasks can really pay off by keeping your bird population healthier and happier!

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Badge of Honor: Perky-Pet® focuses on great bird photos

Categories: Wild Bird

Awesome bird photos

Perky-Pet and Wild Bird Journal want to see your best birding photos. Submit your URLs below!

If you’re a fan of birds like the Wild Bird Journal Blog team is, then you probably spend a little bit of your free time wandering the internet checking out all the great bird photography that’s available.

Since we spend so much time doing this, we figured we ought to make it official “Wild Bird Journal business” while we do it. With that in mind, we’ve recently started awarding badges to photographers who have really impressed us with their great photos.

What’s a badge? This is an honor that a photographer can post on their websites or photo galleries as a badge of honor.

Perky-Pet Photo Badges

THE BADGES

Right now, we’re awarding Perky-Pet® badges under the following categories.

  • Best Action Shot - Spectacular images of birds flying, feeding and those simply “caught in a moment” by a photographer who knows the meaning of good timing.
  • Best Backyard Bird - Bird images clearly captured in a backyard setting, because even that can be magical.
  • Most Nurturing – Baby birds may not be terribly cute, but we know their Momma loves them. This award honors bird photos that capture family moments among birds.
  • Most Photogenic - There are plenty of dull-looking birds, but there are also birds that truly know how to strike a pose and look good doing it. Those birds will nab our Most Photogenic badge.
  • Most Unique - Some photos stand out for their own reasons. Maybe it’s about the setting or a bird doing something totally out of character. That’s what this badge honors.

FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS

If you’re a photographer and would like to participate, submit your URLs to us in the comments below and we’ll check them out. On Twitter, post them with a #perkypetpics hashtag and mention @perkypetfeeders too. Over on Facebook, post a comment on the Perky-Pet® page.

With your permission, we will feature your images in future blog posts and on social media, where we plan to profile our favorite photographers and spotlight some of our favorite badge-winning photos.

Got a favorite bird photo? Lets see it! Post the URL below, on Twitter with a #perkypetpics hashtag, or on a Facebook comment.

Got a favorite bird photo? Lets see it! Post the URL below, on Twitter with a #perkypetpics hashtag, or on a Facebook comment.

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