Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I see a Red-breasted Nuthatch...everywhere

Nocturnal passerine migrants continue to pour into Connecticut. Though I have not had the chance to go out and find these birds on the move most mornings, it is obvious that the Red-breasted Nuthatch is in the middle of an irruption. An irruption is a rapid and often seasonal population increase in areas where a species is only rarely or infrequently seen. It is largely due to ecological factors such as a lack of the preferred food sources in the normal wintering range. The birds head south to find more to eat. This happens for species spanning the spectrum from crossbills to raptors, with Rough-legged Hawks and Snowy Owls having had irruptions in the state in the past few years.

I didn't have time for photography in the middle of the survey at Fairfield University, and this Red-breasted Nuthatch was quite active, foraging all around me but not cooperating and pausing for any decent shots

Sizable numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatch are continuing a journey south through Connecticut. If you have not seen or heard one yet this year you probably will soon. Yesterday I heard one in my yard near my feeders as I walked out to my car. From there I heard another on a large spruce near the Boothe Park hawk watch site. Finally, I heard and saw yet another while surveying a portion of the Fairfield University campus. In southern Connecticut this is a species you could expect to see one or two of in the fall, if that. You would likely have to be outside very often to get lucky enough to have one every year, or know a precise location where they appear annually. In the past couple of weeks I think I have encountered more Red-breasted than White-breasted Nuthatch, which is completely absurd. If the trend continues we may have so many that they end up as a common feeder bird this winter. They are quite tame, so if you have not had them visit in your yard before you may be in a for a treat.
Maybe you will get one to take seed from your hand. Listen for their loud distinct calls that sound like a stronger and more nasal version of the White-breasted Nuthatch.

Photo © Scott Kruitbosch

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