October 30, 2012

Red-breasted Nuthatch - a winter irruption

The diminutive, eye-striped, lesser known cousin of the familiar White-breasted nuthatch is making a big showing this fall throughout New England. Typically found in sandy, pine forests of Cape Cod and higher elevations the Red-breasted nuthatch (known to birders as the “R.B. Nut”) is expected to have a “winter irruption” this year. Irruptions, unlike migrations are not annually occurring movements but rather population shifts caused by environmental factors such as food availability. This is to say when there is a bad pine cone harvest R.B. Nuts move south into areas where food is available. Each winter Southern New England may have an increase or decrease in a number of species from common birds such as Blue Jays to more uncommon visitors such as Red Crossbills and Evening Grosbeaks. One of this year’s irruptive species is the Red-breasted nuthatch. Watch for these birds among stands of pine trees or feeding from the suet feeder. Listen for there comical “toy, tin horn” call, a nasally “meep-meep-meep.” For more on irruptive winter species visit Ron Pittaway's Winter Finch Forecast.

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is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: alexanderjosephdunn@gmail.com

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