Colorful Irruption

A Red-Breasted Nuthatch

A Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Do you know the word “irruption”? It means a migration of abnormally large numbers of some creature into an area. This fall we are having an irruption of colorful Red-Breasted Nuthatches (Sitta canadensis) like the one pictured above. In normal years they do not migrate as far south as our area, but in some years, perhaps when the northern food supply is inadequate, they migrate further south, and occasionally reach the Gulf of Mexico.

“Nuthatch” is supposed to be a corruption of “nuthack”, which refers to the bird’s habit of wedging a seed or a nut into a crevice in the bark of a tree and then pecking (or “hacking”) at it until it cracks and the contents can be eaten. They are fun to watch as they fly high into a tree and then descend down the trunk headfirst looking for food.

This species eats both insects and seeds. They are attracted to black-oil sunflower seeds as you can see in the specimen at our backyard bird feeder in the photograph above. Males and females are similarly colored, but the females head may be somewhat paler in color.


Colorful Irruption — 3 Comments

  1. I am going to watch for some at my feeder. I don’t think I’ve seen them before.

  2. Good to know it is an irruption We’ve had quite a few this fall on the Piedmont of North Carolina. Most days we can see red-breasted, white-breasted and brown-headed nuthatches in our yard.