The Barnum and Bailey Bird

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the White-breasted Nuthatch, our honorary “Bird of the Week.” Although it wears the robes of the ringmaster, this bird, with its acrobatic antics, is better suited to play the role of a circus performer.


Small, stocky, and nearly neck-less, the White-breasted Nuthatch has bands of blue-ish black feathers on its back. Its underside is white with a hint of rust near its short tail feathers. A black hood frames its face, accentuating its slightly mischievous eyes. (Okay, the mischievous part is just my unprofessional opinion, but doesn’t he look like he’s up to no good?)


Some say this type of nuthatch resembles a chickadee – like the one pictured below.


Although they do have similar color patterns, a quick look at  the beak and the feet should end any confusion. The White-breasted Nuthatch has a Black and Decker beak, perfect for probing under bark and drilling at nuts and seeds. It also possesses industrial strength feet that allow it to climb up and down tree trunks and dangle upside down from limbs. The chickadee is really quite dainty in comparison.


Although this bird is bold and beautiful, its personality is what has captured my heart. Usually one of the first to appear at my feeders, it often starts eating the seed before I can finish filling it. Social and inquisitive, the nuthatch typically announces its arrival with a cheerful, squeaky chirp.


If you don’t recognize the White-breasted Nuthatch by its markings, you can usually identify it by its tendency to hop down tree trunks headfirst. Often, it will pause and pose with its head jutted out at an angle, as if it is merely waiting to receive applause for its Barnum and Bailey-like performance.


You can also identify these birds by their slightly inebriated flight pattern. Rather than flying swiftly in a straight line, they are known to dip up and down, as they make their way from one place to another.

Common throughout most of the United States, and year-round residents here in Georgia, the White-breasted Nuthatch is an entertaining bird that is sure to make you smile.






4 thoughts on “The Barnum and Bailey Bird

  1. We love these guys! We’ve had them nest in one of our birdhouses before and love watching their ‘kids’ learn how to use the bird feeders!

  2. They are very entertaining! They always remind me of a tiny little mini-penguin, for some reason. Must be the tuxedo suit. 🙂 I love the way they chirp and squeak as they scurry up and down a tree.

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