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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis Breeding Biology The White-breasted Nuthatch is a permanent resident from southern Canada to central Mexico. It generally inhabits edges or openings in mature deciduous woodland, but also uses mixed forest, and occasionally residential areas. Nests are most frequently built in a natural cavity of a large diameter tree, but nuthatches will also use abandoned woodpecker cavities and sometimes even nest boxes. Cavities are lined with fur, fine grass, and shredded bark. In Ontario, birds breed from late April to late June, laying six whitish eggs with brown speckling, and raising one brood per season. Unlike most species, they do not attempt to re-nest if their first nest fails. Diet The White-breasted Nuthatch eats insects, seeds, and nuts. It forages predominantly by moving up and down tree trunks and branches inspecting cracks and crevices for food. It will also forage on the ground in search of mast, visit feeders in the winter, and cache foods in bark crevices. The nuthatch is known for its habit of placing a hard seed in a bark crevice and then “hatching” it open by hammering it with his bill. Management Guidelines Careful single-tree selection prescriptions that maintain oldergrowth features (large, old trees with natural cavities and old woodpecker holes) will provide for nuthatches. Provisioning of habitat should be geared towards large forests, since survivorship of this species is reduced in small woodlots due to high exposure in the winter. Areas of uncut woodlands can also be used to increase the amount of older-growth habitat available for nuthatches. Male White-breasted Nuthatch — Photo: Robert McCaw Identification (13–14 centimetres) The White-breasted Nuthatch is a small, common resident of deciduous forests and wooded suburbs that characteristically walks head first down large branches and trunks, probing crevices in bark for seeds and insects. It is grey above and white below, with a white face, long slightly-upturned bill, and a rufous patch under the tail. Males have black caps while female caps are dark grey. Conservation Status The White-breasted Nuthatch is common, widespread, and increasing throughout its range (two percent annually). In Ontario, it is most abundant in the south, where mature beechmaple forests are most widespread. Densities are lower and more localized in the highly fragmented Carolinian zone due to less habitat availability. How to Find Besides waiting for this common bird to visit your winter birdfeeders, listen for its nasal and slightly trilled sounding “yenk yenk” call in your woodlot in early May and June. Look for this attractive resident moving down the tree trunk head first. Did you know? • The White-breasted Nuthatch is territorial and maintains its pair bond throughout the year. Pairs remain together in the vicinity of the breeding territory during winter. • In winter, the White-breasted Nuthatch joins mixed-species foraging flocks led by chickadees. Birds within these mixed flocks are believed to gain protection from predators by the combined vigilance of the other birds. • An adult nuthatch will perform a distraction display when a predator closely approaches a nest by spreading its wings and swaying back and forth, while remaining in a fixed position. 116 Bird Species Accounts

Brown Creeper Certhia americana They are permanent residents through much of their range, though the majority of northern birds migrate south to the United States. Creepers build unusual nests under a loose piece of bark or in a tree crevice, composed of roots, grass, moss, and conifer needles held together with spider silk. In Ontario, they breed from late April to early July, lay five or six white eggs, often with sparse brown speckling, and raise a single brood. Diet Creepers feed mainly on small invertebrates in the furrows and cracks of the bark. The Brown Creeper often hitches up the bole of a tree, circling the tree as it climbs, then flies down to the base of another tree to start the search all over again. Its winter diet is supplemented with seeds. Adult Brown Creeper — Photo: Robert McCaw Management Guidelines Although the Brown Creeper is found in a variety of forest habitats, its security is uncertain because of its preference for mature, closed canopy forest with numerous dead or dying trees for nesting and large live trees for foraging. It is also a forest interior bird sensitive to fragmentation. Silviculture practices that retain a high density of large snags and live trees (>50 cm dbh), extend harvest cycles, and reduce edge effects and fragmentation will support creeper populations. Identification (11–13 centimetres) Although the Brown Creeper is distinctive in habit and appearance, it is small, well camouflaged, and has very highpitched vocalizations, making it inconspicuous. It is brown, streaked with white and buff above and white below, with a long, thin, rufous tail, and a long, thin downward curving bill. Sexes are identical. Creepers characteristically spiral up tree trunks in search of food. How to Find Their relatively low densities, thin high pitched song and calls, and excellent camouflage make Brown Creepers difficult to find. Nonetheless, listen for their song, and look on large tree trunks to catch a glimpse of this small bird creeping up the side of a tree. Nest Photo: OMNR Conservation Status The Brown Creeper is considered globally abundant and widespread, despite declines since presettlement times, due to the loss of large tracts of mature and old-growth forest. This species is uncommon in highly fragmented landscapes, and often declines in selectively managed forests. Accurate population estimates may be difficult to obtain due to their inconspicuous behaviour and vocalizations, and low breeding densities in southern Ontario. Breeding Biology The Brown Creeper breeds in mature forests, especially conifers, in Canada, Alaska, and the northeastern and western United States. Did you know? • The female Brown Creeper may take up to 30 days to build her nest. • In the presence of a potential predator, the Brown Creeper will “freeze” with its body pressed flat against a tree trunk in order to camouflage itself. • The creeper has stiff tail feathers, short legs, and long toes that allow it to easily “creep” up the sides of tree trunks. • Their nests often have two openings, one that serves as an entrance and the other as an exit. • A group of creepers is collectively known as a “sleeze” or a “spiral” of creepers. Bird Species Accounts 117

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