White-Breasted Nuthatches are known for two things: their odd name and walking down the length of trees while woodpeckers climb up. First, the name. It’s really not that odd. “Hatch” is an old English term for “hack” or break open. Nuthatches earn their meals by wedging large nuts into bark crevasses, then “hatching” them with their beaks to reveal the fat-filled meat inside. As for walking down instead of up tree trunks, that’s a little murkier. But ornithologists speculate their downward perspective allows them to discover food not readily seen by upward-moving woodpeckers. Plus, White-Breasted Nuthatches are prolific food stashers, storing morsels in the fall for retrieval on lean winter days. Caching food from above helps hide it from hungry woodpeckers looking for snacks down below.
Keep an eye out for White-Breasted Nuthatches on oak and other backyard deciduous trees. Attract them with tree icing (spreadable suet) smeared directly on tree trunks, suet cake feeders, shelled peanuts and black oil sunflower. For a blend that will really get them jazzed, mix shelled peanuts and black-oil sunflower seeds together in your tube, hopper or tray feeder.