White-breasted Nuthatch

Along a wooded stretch of road, I heard the persistent, nasal ahnk-ahnk calls of a White-breasted Nuthatch, and even though the gray light made it difficult to see details very well, I found the very small bird with short stubby tail near the top of a dead pine still full of brown needles and cones. The sleek black head, snow-white face, throat and breast, long thin bill, and head craned upward as it headed down the trunk in its classic pose – all made it clearly familiar. White-breasted Nuthatches used to be very uncommon here, but in the past year or so they have become more frequent visitors, especially in the area where I saw and heard this one this morning.

Only a minute or two after this one flew further down the road, into a large yard with many widely-spaced pecan trees, a couple of Brown-headed Nuthatches came along through the same pines, squeaking their toy-like calls – and suddenly there was a burst of activity as a number of small birds began to fly back and forth between water oaks on both sides of the road. Because of the murky light, I wasn’t able to see many of them well, but among them were Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice (the usual ringleaders), Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, one or two American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and at least one Pine Warbler.

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