Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
Winter bird feeding brings countless hours of pleasure to thousands of Iowans statewide. Observing our backyard visitors becomes even more interesting whenever a rare or unusual species makes a surprise appearance. The red-breasted nuthatch is a species currently filling that bill.
A resident of northern and western mountain pine forests, the red-breasted nuthatch is an energetic, miniature version of the more familiar white-breasted nuthatch. This year, the species is currently being sporadically reported at feeders across the state. While white-breasted nuthatches are common visitors to virtually every suet and sunflower feeder in the state, the tiny red-breasted is rarely, if ever, seen by most Iowans. Keep a sharp eye, and you may get your chance this winter. If one does happen to pay a visit to one of your backyard feeders, you’re likely to immediately spot the difference. In addition to its smaller size and hyper demeanor, the red-breasted’s black eye stripe, overall darker plumage, and rusty red breast make it readily distinguishable from its larger and more common cousin.