the nuthatch epicure

Occasionally a nuthatch will sit in or on a feeder, probing deeply into the slots that release the seed after some particular delicacy.  The bird throws out seed right and left, which I’m sure the squirrels and juncos on the ground below appreciate.

What makes this seed different from all the rest he tossed out on the ground?

What makes this seed different from all the rest he tossed out on the ground?

I’m not sure what the bird is after, but when one seed strikes its fancy, and the bird flies off to the nearest tree.  Sometimes there seems to be nothing in its bill as it leaves the feeder, but I saw the bird pick up a seed, so it must be holding it in its mouth.

Sure enough, the nuthatch jams a seed into the crack of the tree.  I initially thought it was caching the seed there (wrong conclusion!), but obviously failed to watch the whole operation carefully.  No, the nuthatch jams the seed into a crack to hold it there securely while the bird proceeds to drill it, and quickly extract the nutmeat inside.

You can see the sunflower seed jammed perpendicularly into the crack in the bark.  If you squint, you can see his open bill as he extends his tongue into the open seed.  (observed this with the binoculars instead of the camera)

You can see the sunflower seed jammed perpendicularly into the crack in the bark at the very bottom of the photo. If you squint, you can see his open bill as he extends his tongue into the opened seed. (observed this with the binoculars instead of the camera)

Aha! This is how you eat seeds when “perched” upside down on a vertical surface without having to use your feet to hold the seed like a chickadee would or use your large, nut-cracking bill and tongue the way a cardinal would.

Not choosy -- just munching away on the left-overs under the feeder.

Not choosy — just munching away on the left-overs under the feeder.

A reminder to me to conduct more thorough observations before making a hasty conclusion.

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