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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

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For Kids > I'm Alive > Red-breasted nuthatch - a northern visitor for the winter Red-breasted nuthatch - a northern visitor for the winter

Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Red-Breasted Nuthatch

You're walking through the winter woodlands and you hear a "beep, beep, beep!" Then, you hear it again. This time it sounds like a Volkswagen stuck in the trees! There is no highflying Harry Potter car in this forest, but instead the pert, saucy, little Red-breasted Nuthatch is here for the winter, sounding his (or her) presence with high-pitched, nasal beeps high in the pines.

Though not a typical summer resident in Indiana's State Parks and Reservoirs, this smaller cousin to the more common white-breasted nuthatch is seen in varying numbers in the winter. Why are they here? As food supplies dwindle further north, scores of winter birds make their way southward in search of seeds and cones. For the red-breasted nuthatch, it's the seeds of conifers (pines and spruces) they're after. Often times, the nuthatch is lumped into a group called "winter finches," because they are only seen---you guessed it---in the winter! Most years, the first red-breasted nuthatches arrive in mid-September amongst the pine stands of Pokagon and Indiana Dunes State Parks. They follow soon after for the rest of the state. Once the first cool winds blow in from the north and the black walnuts are dropping their tiny, yellow leaflets; listen for the excited sounds of Indiana's other "upside-down bird!"