Nuthatch Irruption!

Red-breasted Nuthatch 

The good news is we're experiencing a major irruption of Red-breasted Nuthatches into southern Wisconsin this fall migration. This is such a fortuitous prospect for those of us who love nuthatches, I'm declaring all bad news unimportant and insignificant for the remainder of the year. Seriously, though, these southward invasions are attributed to lack of winter food up north on their breeding territory. To be sure, it probably isn't such good news for the nuthatches. Any time birds travel long distances there's undoubtedly an increase in mortality events given inherent dangers of migration. But staying behind probably presents worse prospects, so they move out.

Look at this amazing frequency graph generated in eBird comparing 2012 to the previous four years for Red-breasted Nuthatch in Wisconsin:

Now that is some irruption!

One of the few highlights about living in Waunakee was all the Red-breasted Nuthatches that showed up at my feeders in September and remained throughout winter. I loved how the little birds got all concerned while I raked leaves near the peanut feeder. They would perch low in the maple branches directly above my head or on the feeder and humor me with their amazingly complex twittering calls. I imagine it's probably very serious business from their point of view, but I find them adorably amusing. They're such smart looking birds. I've been observing Red-breasted Nuthatches almost every day at Pheasant Branch Conservancy the past week or so. Even when I don't see them, their yenk yenk yenk calls give them away.

"More suet, please."

© 2012 Mike McDowell