What a great-looking outfit on such a tiny bird! The dark line through the eye, the grey back and the great amount of reddish colouration on the underparts. The male has a darker cap and darker coloured underparts than the female.
Here Is how my grandfather, Dr Murray Speirs, described the red-breasted nuthatch: “This charming little beauty may be found throughout Ontario at all seasons, but is most likely to be seen in coniferous forests. It nests in cavities, often high up in dead tress or branches of live trees. It surrounds the entrance with a sticky gum from pines or other conifers to keep out predators, but at least one adult got caught in its own pitch and died. They are generally more numerous during migration when they often accompany warbler “waves”, but numbers vary considerably from year to year – hundreds may be seen some years and very few or none the next year, perhaps correlated with cone crops on northern conifers.”
Every year during my June week of breeding bird surveys in Northern Ontario, we hear dozens of them.
The call is something like the more familiar call of the white-breasted nuthatch, but it is thinner and has a rising inflection.
All nuthatches appear to store food, especially seeds, in tree crevices, in the ground, under small stones, or behind bark flakes, and these caches are remembered for as long as 30 days.
While retrieving this food, some observers thought that, it fact, they were “hatching” the seed or nutlet and gave them the name “nuthatches.”