The Brown-headed Nuthatch is hereby declared our “Bird of the Week” – though around my house we affectionately refer to them as “Dauntless Dive Bombers.”
We nicknamed them after the Douglas SBD Dauntless, a World War II naval plane considered to be one of the world’s best dive bombers. (Can you tell I have a history buff for a husband?) They earned this term of endearment not because they are fierce, but because they are fearless, often swooping down to land on feeders while we are still in the process of filling them. I’m pretty sure if I were a bit more patient, these birds would eat straight from my hand. Maybe I’ll make that a winter goal.
Small, but stocky, measuring in at about four inches, Brown-headed Nuthatches are easy to recognize. They have bluish grey wings, with caps the color of warm cocoa and chins and cheeks the color of whipped cream. (Is it obvious I am writing this while I am hungry?) Like other nuthatches, they have drill-like beaks for prying and probing and strong feet for climbing up and down tree trunks. These guys are seen upside-down as often as they are seen right-side-up!
Social birds, Brown-headed Nuthatches are frequently seen hanging about with other small birds like chickadees and titmice. I think the phrase “plays well with others” applies to them quite nicely. You rarely see one of these fellows arrive at a feeder without another close at hand, which makes sense since they tend to live in family groups, with grown babies (especially males) often sticking around to help raise the next brood.
These birds announce their presence with a cheerful squeaky chirp that sounds a lot like a toddler’s tub toy. You can’t help but smile when you hear them. In my backyard, they munch on Bark Butter and sunflower seeds, but their favorite fare seems to be peanuts. In fact, just scroll back through this post and see how many of the pictures show them posed on the peanut feeder! I’m pretty sure they are the culprits that keep me constantly running to the store to pick up another jar of nuts. And speaking of “jar” – for some reason unknown to me, when you get a group of these guys together it’s called a “jar of nuthatches.” An imaginary prize goes to anyone who can tell me how that originated.
Another interesting tidbit about Brown-headed Nuthatches is that they are proficient tool users. They will take a piece of bark and use it as a lever to pry up other pieces of bark in search of insects. Sometimes they will carry their “tool” from one tree to another as they scavenge for food. How cool is that?
Fearless, friendly, alert, intelligent, resourceful – what’s not to love about these birds?
I’ll close with a bit of odd personal trivia – but no judging! I have taken to the habit of pairing up people I know with the kind of bird I think they would be. Sort of like one of those strange facebook quizzes. Well, if my Dad were a bird he would definitely be a Brown-headed Nuthatch! Maybe that’s another reason why these Dauntless Dive Bombers have a special place in my heart.