Friday, December 28, 2012

A US (near) Endemic: Brown-headed Nuthatch

The brown-headed nuthatch could be a US endemic -- "could be" because other than a small population on the Grand Bahama, it is not found in any other country. And, some authorities consider the Bahamian bird a separate species in which case it is an endemic already. Regardless, this is a very special bird -- details to follow:

Firstly, the brown-headed nuthatch is one the smallest nuthatches in the world; a distinction it shares in the US with the appropriately named pygmy nuthatch at about 4" in length.


This small dynamo was observed at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. This nuthatch is fairly confiding and will approach the observer quite closely and its call is distinctive -- resembling a squeaky toy.

The nuthatch does have a brown head [unlike some bird names that were apparently chosen by the colorblind] and a white patch on the nape of the neck. The upperparts are a delicate grey while the belly and throat are white.


Secondly, the brown-headed nuthatch uses "technology" while feeding. It is one of those rare birds that is known to use a "tool" (a piece of bark) while extricating insects.


Like all nuthatches, it is adept at vertical travel up and down tree trunks.


Another characteristic of the nuthatch is that they are frequently seen looking up as they travel down as in the pose above. All in all, a very special (and cute) bird.

The next denizen of Corkscrew Swamp is a loud, indeed, very loud wren:


The Carolina Wren has lungs and vocal chords that would put most other birds to shame -- it is the loudest bird in the Swamp.


Like other wrens, it keeps its tail cocked while it rummages for food close to the ground. Seen from the back, its white eye-stripe and rich cinnamon hues are clearly visible.


Moving on to the final bird in this post -- this is a creature that is common but rarely seen. Always hidden in some thicket, it can, however, be heard calling in the mornings.


The brown thrasher is the only thrasher found in the Eastern US. It is an excellent mimic with over a thousand entries in its songbook.


At Corkscrew, look for this shy bird in the Parking Lot; especially, left off the main entrance.


The other place to look for Brown Thrasher is immediately to the opposite end of where the strollers/wheelchairs are parked as you enter the boardwalk. It is almost impossible to get an unobstructed shot of this elusive species.


Corkscrew Swamp affords a variety of habitat that makes for engaging birding at any season as these 3 species can confidently attest.

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