Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Never mind Michael Phelps. This bird, captured the other day at our backyard feeder at the Writer's Lair on Lake Superior, deserves its own Olympic gold for its prowess on the high bar. It is a red-breasted nuthatch, a sparrow-sized species notable for its ability to scoot headfirst down tree trunks. Who would have thought it also can hang upside down while it dines on sunflower seeds?

Not this city slicker, although many bird sources cite the nuthatch's ability to dangle headfirst from twigs while feeding. In fact, chickadees can do that, too.

But the nuthatch seems to have one truly singular habit, according to the Cornell ornithology website. It
"applies sticky conifer resin globules to the entrance of its nest hole. It may carry the resin in its bill or on pieces of bark that it uses as an applicator. The male puts the resin primarily around the outside of the hole while the female puts it around the inside. The resin may help to keep out predators or competitors. The nuthatch avoids the resin by diving directly through the hole."

I wish I could do all that with my front door.

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