Nuthatch Thievery

Yesterday afternoon, as I peered outside to check on the progress of our expected rain showers, I saw a red-breasted nuthatch in one of our black locust trees.  Circling a major branch with a seed in his bill, this avian acrobat was searching for a bark crevice in which to store his larder; when food is plentiful (as it is thanks to my feeders), this is typical behavior for a nuthatch.

Having selected his storage spot, the red-breasted nuthatch crammed the seed under the bark, maneuvering it with his bill.  Seemingly proud of his frugality, he stepped back to admire his work when a white-breasted nuthatch swooped in and snared the seed from its natural locker.  Miffed, the red-breast poked at the intruder but did not seriously challenge his larger rival.  Once he flew off, the white-breasted nuthatch casually devoured the prize.

Such competition and opportunism are widespread in nature but we seldom get the chance to witness these encounters.  I must admit, in more than 40 years of birding, this was a first, occurring less than 20 feet from our living room window.  Birding, like all forms of nature study, relies on a mix of effort and luck!