I checked nest again on 6/29. Bird's behavior was the same as on 6/25. TODAY, however, she did not pop into the nest. Instead, after darting along the same approach from tree limb to tree limb, she clung to the trunk outside the nest hole as two tiny beaks appeared. Instead of popping into the nest, she popped food into their mouths!
As I think about this, I would suspect that RB Nuthatches do not raise BH Cowbirds.
----- Original Message -----
From: Charlotte Bill
To: Vermont Birds ; [log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, June 25, 2007 9:35 PM
Subject: Red-breasted Nuthatch Nest
Late this afternoon, on a first trip to the Lowell-2 block for VBBA, I found my first-ever Red-breasted Nuthatch nest. Anyone watching me probably would have chuckled to observe my process as I figured it out. First I saw this small quick bird darting to a tree limb, darting to another limb, and then popping into a hole in an upright snag on a poplar tree. I studied the hole - seemed slightly large than an inch in diameter and perfectly round. And there were gobs of pitch clinging to the tree below the hole. Pitch on a poplar tree??? Soon the bird popped out. WHAT was it? A warbler? But what warbler nests in a hole in a tree? None that I know of. Besides, the beak was too long. I watched as the bird made several return trips, each time with a beak full of food. The bird was ratty, thin, non-descript, EXCEPT for a black line through the eye and a distinct white supercilium. Blue-gray back, flash of buff, combined with the nasal call of male nuthatch in the background gave this bird away. A female RB Nuthatch, worked to the bone. I stood below the nest and read Annette L. Gosnell's essay in The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont (1985):
"The Red-breasted Nuthatch ... brings globules of pitch or resin from pines, balsam, and other conifers and smears them around the entrance. The male nuthatch continues to bring fresh pitch to the entrance throughout the incubation and nestling periods (Kilham 1972b). Parent birds avoid the pitch by flying straight into the nest. The pitch may protect against predators, competitors, and weather" (116).