A New Angle on the Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Some birds, like Treecreepers and Nuthatches, get most of their food, build their nests, and so on, while climbing up and down trees. Most of the time, they can be found inching up and down trees to find insects, seeds and water in cavities.

When we look at these birds, we see them at side angles – inching up or down trees with their strong, gripping claws. I have seen this bird, the Red-Breasted Nuthatch, many times – sometimes at my bird feeder, sometimes while it moves up and down various trees, and so on – but typically, I could only see its sides! This time, when I saw one climbing up my cedar tree, I wanted to do something else. 

I was curious to see if I could capture the top of its head and its body, as it inched down the tree. I wanted to capture its concentrated expression and get a full view of its gripping claws, and all the while, give the effect that it was walking across flat ground. In order to do this, though, I would need to do two things – point my camera directly at the bird’s face as it climbed down. And make sure I wouldn’t scare it. 

When I first tried to take the shot, I was unable to fully see what I was doing – it’s difficult to position your head underneath the camera, and still point the camera 90° up. So instead, I lay on the ground, pointed my head and camera straight up, and was able to get this photo!

The reward was worth the effort. Look at the Nuthatch’s concentration, as it maintains its grip on the tree! And look at how we can now observe its full face, and examine its entire crown – not just the side angles I would get in earlier photos. 

This new perspective also sparked a question – how are these birds able to climb like this, anyway? Surely it must be incredibly difficult! Well, it is all in their anatomy – their short, bent legs make anchoring very easy, and their long, sharp claws hold a firm grip to the tree bark. It’s amazing how something which seems so difficult to us is a straightforward and staple part of life for these birds.

You can learn more about the Red-Breasted Nuthatch on my bird identification website, FindYourBird!

Published by kabirsamsi

High School Senior in Fremont, CA. I enjoy music, programming and ornithology. My other hobbies include biking and watching soccer and cricket. Check out my birding blog, KBirdVentures! (link below) to see my photos and read up on different news in the avian world.

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