Is He or Isn’t He a Brown-headed Nuthatch?

Author: Meera, January 14, 2013
A Brown-headed Nuthatch visited the Henny Penny Farmette during the summer

Brown-headed Nuthatch visiting our  farmette during the summer



I’ve been checking out the photos of birds I’ve taken since moving to the Henny Penny Farmette. I’ve been able to identify most of them, but one took a while for me to figure out. Like other birds that come by for a visit, he perched for a spell atop the rough-hewn birdhouse on the back fence. I think he is a brown-headed nuthatch (sitta pusilla), although I am not completely convinced I’m right. Half the fun of being a bird watcher is figuring out what species you have spotted.


Still, the bird has the right markings–the brown cap down to the eye, white nape spot, white throat and underparts, and some gray on its back. With beady eyes, broad shoulders, and a short neck, this little bird seems to best fit the description of the brown-headed nuthatch although that species likes the pine forests of the southern United States and travels in flocks. This fellow showed up alone in my Northern California garden.


I got out my Audubon Society bird guidebook and the Song and Garden Birds of North America, a National Geographic book, to help me identify the nuthatch and some of our other feathered friends. So far, we’ve had visits by sparrows, finches, scrub jays, a pair of Western bluebirds, mourning doves, wrens, a barn owl, lots of hawks and crows, and hummingbirds.


We’ve put up birdhouses, some with rough bark exteriors, that seem to attract certain types of birds. Other birdhouses are smooth surfaced. The bluebirds  were checking out one of those today. Spring will come . . . eventually, but even before trees start to break bud, the birds will be scouting nesting sites. I’m hoping the brown-headed nuthatch will return with a mate and stay around for a while.





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