01.10.16: Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Blendon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio. 


Technical information

Nov. 23, 2007,
11:47 a.m.

40°4’24” N,
82°52'5" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 40D

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/500th second


It’s rather common for me to find nuthatches in the woods, especially in winter. I see White-breasted Nuthatches clinging to the bark on trees — sometimes facing up, sometimes facing down — as they search bark furrows for hidden insects.

Note that I said White-breasted Nuthatches. They are common in this area. I often find them traveling with groups of similarly colored birds (chickadees, titmice) as they hunt for food in the winter months. If there’s a feeder near a wooded area I can expect to see White-breasted Nuthatches among the birds visiting that feeder.

But this is a photo of a Red-breasted Nuthatch, something that is not as common in this area. I found this bird hanging around a feeder in Blendon Woods Metro Park near Columbus, Ohio, for a few weeks in early winter 2007. 

I had never seen a Red-breasted Nuthatch before. And I haven’t encountered one since.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch’s year-round range covers much of Canada and the northeast United States, the Rocky Mountain area and the upper west coast of the U.S., with a finger of the range extending down the Appalachians. According to bird sites I’ve checked, the Red-breasted Nuthatch nests farther north and at higher elevations than other Nuthatches. I guess that’s why the southern-most areas of their year-round range are all mountainous.

The winter range can cover other areas of the U.S., like Central Ohio. But it varies tremendously from year to year.

So Red-breasted Nuthatches can be found here. They’re just not a regular sight.

That’s why it was such a treat to watch this bird as it bounced between trees waiting for a chance to visit the feeder and grab some food.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is smaller and stubbier than the White-breasted Nuthatch that is common in this area. It is the only nuthatch in North America with an eyestripe, and the only one with the rusty, cinnamon-toned feathers underneath.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.