Family: (Sittidae) Nuthatches
Preferred Habitat: Moist woodlands and wooded suburbs.
Seasonal Occurrence: Uncommon October through April.
Notes: The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a small, blue-grey songbird with a long pointed bill, short tail, plump chest, and almost no neck. It has a patterned head with a black cap, a black stripe over the eye and a white stripe above it. It’s underparts are rusty-colored, with the coloring paler in females and juveniles than in adult males.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are residents of Canada, Alaska and the northeastern and western United States. While their range does not often extend to Texas, Red-breasted Nuthatches will irrupt further south if their food supplies fail. In bird terms, an irruption is a sudden, irregular migration of birds to areas outside of their typical range, usually caused by low food availability in their wintering grounds.
It is shaping up to be an irruption year for Red-breasted Nuthatches with more sightings than normal in the southern tier of states, including one spotted at our Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary in High Island last weekend. Keep your eyes peeled for these little birds foraging and creeping up and down tree trunks and branches. The best way to find them is to listen for their distinctive call, a series of nasal, hornlike ‘yank-yank’.
Our High Island sanctuaries and Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary are great places to look for Red-breasted Nuthatches, but watch out for them at the feeders in your gardens too!