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Publishers’ Notes:
The Tale of the Angry Nuthatch

by Cassie Horner and Tim Sink

On April 13, Cassie broke her wrist while walking down the steep path to our dock. She slipped on ice covered by leaves and went down hard. Her feet flew out from under her and she hit her wrist on one side on a rock and the other side snapped. The end result was first a splint and then a bright purple cast, which did little to cheer her up.

She was sitting out in a lawn chair about a week after the event reading while Tim was working on a project in the shed. All of a sudden Cassie noticed a little red-breast- ed nuthatch perched on the side of the big oak next to the chair. It peered at her from that tilted position it takes on a tree trunk and then it flew up and landed on the back of the lawn chair. This was quite disconcerting, enough so Cassie hollered to Tim to say, hey, come and see this crazy bird!

The situation escalated from there and we realized that this little bird was attacking us. It was flying from the post to the fence to the chair to the edge of the shed and from tree to tree. Especially when Cassie moved around in her bright orange raincoat it flew at her with great gusto. She went inside in self-defense and when she came back out the little bird rushed her.

Finally, cast held high, and waving a broom in the other hand as some sort of lame attempt at protection, Cassie went through the gate and up to the road only to find that the nut- hatch was perched on the big oak tree near the cars. Once again, it flew at her and she flailed the broom around hollering at it.

That was the end of the red-breast- ed bird for the day. Whew! More excitement than expected on a chilly April afternoon. We took the dogs (all ignored by our “friend”) for a walk and when we came back, no more nuthatch.

We were astonished to see what ap- peared to us to be crazy behavior on the part of a bird that we had always admired and thought was cute and defenseless. This small songbird known for its “yank, yank” nasally call had never seemed to bother anybody. We don’t feed birds but we love see- ing them in our wooded area with lots of oak and some hemlocks. Often we have seen a nuthatch perched on the trunks, scrabbling with its claw, and looking for insects.

When we searched for red-breasted nuthatch online under the search
of “nuthatch aggression” instantly there popped up a lot of information about the feisty nature of this bird that is very well known for being pugnacious, especially with regard to other birds and other nuthatches as it protects its territory with great fierceness. So, hats off to you, little red-breasted nuthatch. We will never take you for granted again.

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