Nuthatches are such comical little birds, that they quickly became my favorite visitors to our “bird sanctuary” at the first house we as a young family owned. They are dressed in black, white, and blue-grey (and less common species have rufous red or brown coloration on head and/or belly) — they make little ANK! ANK! sounds, much like you could if you said the word while pinching your nose closed — AND they walk face-first down tree trunks! Who can resist such a show?
These stocky little birds are also easy to please. They eat nuts and seeds – and insects galore. Just about any large tree over 6 inches in diameter will harbor a meal for a nuthatch, but they are especially fond of oaks (for their acorns), maples (for the bugs), and pines, firs, and hemlocks (for seeds and bugs).
Want to make a nuthatch extra happy in your yard? Here are a few ways:
- Plant some sunflowers — they love the seeds and you will see them dart over, day after day, working their way from the outside of the seedheads toward their slow-ripening centers.
- Plant some broccoli or other cabbage family plants a ways away from your vegetable gardens – let them grow wild, and watch the nuthatches delight over the insects they attract!
- Set out a shallow birdbath, or put rocks in a deeper one — nuthatches have short legs and only like puddle-deep water.
- Mount birdhouses on trees or on a shady side of your house — about 15 feet off the ground. Nuthatches nest in tree cavities naturally, and can sometimes be inticed to use birdhouses.
- Store up natural fibers – like feathers, pet fur, and even moss and lichen — and set them out where nuthatches can gather them for nesting materials.
Also try these favorite nuthatch foods in your backyard feeders:
- chopped nuts & seeds
Try this: Watch a wild nuthatch in your yard or at a park (or on videos like those at the website below). Listen for their comical plugged-nose sounding ”ANK! ANK!”. Watch them bob along, face-first down the trunks of trees or along the undersides of branches, then flit to the next tree, higher up, and make their way back down. Move your own head or hands in the same jerky motion as these little birds spend their lives. Create a little rhythm to match — simple little syllables of sound that mimic nuthatch behavior. Paint a picture or write a poem using your newly discovered nuthatch rhythm.
Learn more about nuthatches at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website — see similar species, view range maps, hear nuthatch calls and songs, and even watch nuthatch videos!