White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) - local seasonal appearance

Based on 179 observations in Seymour township, Northumberland county, southeast Ontario, 1999-2012.

The white-breasted nuthatch is a common sight at winter bird feeders. At other times of year it may often be seen spiralling, head-down, descending tree trunks in search of insect food in the crevices of the bark. It may also join mixed feeding flocks with other winter birds such as chickadees. This species tends to prefer mature deciduous settings, whereas the red-breasted nuthatch, a devotee of coniferous stands further north, is much less frequently encountered in Trent Hills. Arthur Cleveland Bent begins his description of the species in a seemingly detached manner: "The white-breasted nuthatch is a droll, earnest little bird, rather sedate and unemotional. He is no great musician and seems to lack a sense of humor". Further browsing of the relevant monograph shows that Bent was, after all, more enamoured of the little bird with its habits, distinctive calls and tameness (Bent, 1948, pp.1-12). The four species of nuthatch seen in Canada spend much of their time feeding and, notably, hoarding food (Lawrence, 1974, pp.159-161). The species ranges from parts of southern Canada south to Oaxaca and central Florida (Godfrey, 1979, pp.281-282).

The white-breasted nuthatch breeds across southern Ontario (Cadman et al., 1987, pp.300-301), and in some areas of northwest Ontario close to the international border. The addition of new data for the later edition (Cadman et al., 2007, pp.408-409) confirms that the bird continues to breed in Trent Hills, albeit with lower abundance than on much of the Grenville portion of the Canadian shield, from the eastern Kawarthas (Upper Stony Lake, Petroglyphs Park, etc) eastwards to the Ottawa Valley.

The white-breasted nuthatch breeds at Presqu'ile provincial park, roughly 40 km to the south. It is a year-round resident and nests have been found between April 8th and June 14th. "During the nesting period, birds become very quiet and are considerably more difficult to locate" (LaForest, 1993, p.261) - a point consistent with the Trent Hills (Seymour) observations shown here.

In Peterborough county, to the northwest, this bird is also resident all year, and has been seen nesting as early as April 19th in Burnham provincial park. "This species seems to prefer tree trunks for hunting, while (the red-breasted nuthatch) is commonly found on the branches, especially those of conifers" (Sadler, 1983, p.117).

View the complete 14-year (1999-2012) monthly data summary (77-kb pdf file).

References

Bent,AC (1948) Life Histories of North American Nuthatches, Wrens, Thrashers, and their Allies. Dover Publications Inc., 1964 reprint of Smithsonian Institution Bull. 195, 475pp. plus 90 plates.

Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.

Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.

Godfrey,WE (1979) The Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, 428pp.

LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park, Brighton, Ontario / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.

Lawrence,RD (1974) Wildlife in North America: Birds. Thomas Nelson and Sons (Canada) Ltd, Don Mills, ON, 256pp.

Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.


Graham Wilson, 09-11 January 2012, updated 08 June 2013


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