Red-breasted Nuthatches frequently join in on bird waves-groups of warblers, chickadees and kinglets moving through the woods. The nuthatches' unusual body form and nasal cries easily set them apart from the other songbirds. The Red-breasted Nuthatch smears the entrance of its nesting cavity with sap. This sticky doormat might inhibit ants and other animals from entering the nest chamber-invertebrates can be the most serious threat to nesting success, because they frequently transmit diseases and parasitize nestlings. The Red-breasted Nuthatch's distinctive, nasal calls are heard more and more often as spring arrives. The scientific name canadensis means 'of Canada'-a reference to its northerly nesting habits.
I.D.: General: rusty underparts; gray-blue upperparts; white eyebrow; black eye line; black cap; straight bill; short tail; white cheek. Male: deeper rust on the breast; black crown. Female: light red wash on the breast; gray crown.
Size: L 41/2 in. (11 cm).
Range: uncommon to common resident throughout the Rockies.
Habitat: spruce-fir, lodgepole pine and other coniferous forests up to the subalpine.
Nesting: excavates a cavity or uses an abandoned woodpecker nest; usually smears the entrance with sap; nest is made of bark shreds, grass and fur; female incubates 5-6 eggs for 12 days.
Feeding: forages down trees while probing under loose bark for larval and adult invertebrates; eats many pine and spruce seeds during winter; visits feeders.
Voice: slow, continually repeated, nasal yank-yank-yank.
Similar Species: White-breasted Nuthatch : lacks the black eye line and the red underparts. Pygmy Nuthatch: brown cap; lacks the black eye line. Mountain Chickadee: black bib; lacks the red breast.