Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Red-breasted Nuthatch Irruption Reaches the LCRV

Lots of folks around the continent have realized by now that it is an irruption year for Red-breasted Nuthatches.  With failed seed crops across much of their range, they are showing up everywhere they aren't supposed to be.  Observers are noting that there seems to be one in every patch of trees in the desert!

The first in the LCRV this fall turned up south of Blythe in Riverside County, CA, September 20.  It was discovered by Jesse Swift.  I figured that they must be around in appropriate habitat, so I visited 'Ahakhav Tribal Preserve on September 22.  I briefly heard the "ink-ink" calls of a nuthatch, but no amount of searching, pishing, or owl calls could make it surface or call again, so I gave it up.  Now that I've really experienced how quiet these birds can be, I'm sure that it was a Red-breasted Nuthatch.  The next day, one was seen by Cyrus Moqtaderi and others at Cibola NWR, La Paz County.

Spending a week in the Bay Area, I saw Red-breasted Nuthatches in just about every tree I cared to check.  When I returned home two days ago, I was ready to try again!  During a stop at Rotary Park in Lake Havasu City, I saw at least one nuthatch--probably more like four.

Nuthatch at Rotary Park

Today was dedicated to nuthatches in La Paz County, a county where nuthatches aren't found in a typical year.  After an hour and a half of searching at the Bill Williams River NWR, one of the little guys decided to call, allowing me to get a short sound recording.  Later in the afternoon, one was at 'Ahakhav.  I saw it while it foraged, and it never called.  These irrupting birds have been so skulky and silent, I wonder how many are really out there.

Nuthatch at 'Ahakhav
The link at the top of this post shows a very interesting eBird chart for RBNU across the United States this year.  Sightings are spiking now at 16% of submitted checklists--that means 16% of checklists include Red-breasted Nuthatches!

Other good birds have been around in the past few days, too.  A Prothonotary Warbler has been at Cape Havasu for the past two days, photographed by John West today.  An exceptionally late Brown-crested Flycatcher conveniently called right as I was recording another bird today at the Bill.  Another cool sight at the Bill today was a flock of 500 Red-necked Phalaropes wheeling over the water in the Delta.


  1. Very neat! I saw some just the other day on Mt. Ord too, east of Phoenix. Charming little fluffs they are.

  2. We are seeing more here in New Mexico as compared to previous years.

  3. Lauren - thought you might be interested to know that I was able to photograph one today at Buckskin Mountain State Park.

    1. That is interesting! They have been winding down, and I have been seeing very few recently.