It is not unusual for us to have a nuthatch visit our bird feeders, but in most years we have either Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) or, (more frequently), White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) and neither Miriam nor I can recall having both species visit at the same time.
This year has been the exception to the rule and both have been regular visitors, once even appearing on different sides of the same feeder. It has given us a lot of pleasure to welcome these birds.
This is the smaller of the two species, with an overall length of about 120mm (4.75 in.).
In common with White-breasted Nuthatch it is all business when it visits the feeders. It quickly snatches a seed and flies off to cache it under the bark of a tree, or in a crevice, sometimes even in a fissure in the mortar of a wall. Sunflower seeds seem to be its preferred choice of food.
Once we spot a bird, it goes to and from the feeder several times before disappearing for a few hours, only to return again.
Both longer and bulkier than Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch averages 155mm (6 in.) and has a noticeably longer, slightly upturned bill.
It often announces its presence with its relatively high-pitched nasal nit, nit sound, an easy song to learn, and one of the first to be remembered and recognized by those unfamiliar with bird vocalization.
It will take a variety of seeds, but shows great fondness for peanuts, which it extracts from the feeder with ease.
Feeding from the hand
Both species are quite confiding and with a little patience can be coaxed into feeding from the hand.
These birds are resident in southern Ontario and we will look forward to enjoying their presence throughout the winter. I have no doubt they will sparkle like jewels set against the winter snow - that pleasure is still to come!