Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis


Red-breasted Nuthatch
I regularly hear the nasal toots of birds of this species in their Sierra nesting grounds in summer, and occasionally see them there, but never close enough for a good photograph until my 10th trip, when I photographed the bird above in the burned-over timber stand just east of Bassett's along Highway 49, between Yuba Pass and Sierra City.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
In 2005-06, we had Red-breasted Nuthatches in our yard for a good part of the winter; otherwise, I've never seen one here, though the White-breasted Nuthatch is present every year. The Red-breasted has a more northerly normal winter range, but they are forced southward in years when their food sources fail in the northern forests. Another such irruption winter was 2012-13, when I photographed the Red-breasted Nuthatch at sea shown in the last two images below.



Red-breasted Nuthatch


Red-breasted Nuthatch
The bird above was foraging and tooting in a tree right next to a house we stayed in for a weekend in September 2010 in the charming town of Manzanita, Oregon, on the coast west of Portland. This is my only picture of a Red-breasted Nuthatch in flight!



Red-breasted Nuthatch
The bird shown above and below is an ocean-going Red-breasted Nuthatch! On a Shearwater Journeys pelagic bird outing from Half Moon Bay, this little landbird flew in and alighted on the boat at a point more than twenty miles westward into the Pacific Ocean from the California mainland. The bird lighted on the upper structures of the boat, including the mast, as shown here, and stayed aboard for a few minutes before it took off over the ocean in the direction of the nearby South Farallon Islands. The photo below shows this bird at an angle hiding the red underparts that most birders rely on for sight identification; the white above as well as below the bold dark eyeline is another good mark, compare the otherwise somewhat similar-looking Pygmy Nuthatch.

Red-breasted Nuthatch