A Nuthatch Home for the Holidays

The Brown-headed Nuthatch, a southern bird born and bred, needs your help to find a good home. This holiday season, BUY ONE nest box and Audubon North Carolina will GIVE ONE nest box to a local school, church or park in the best spot for a nuthatch in your community.

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This house is PERFECT for the Brown-headed Nuthatch, a bird that needs your help to thrive. Your purchase will go twice as far to give these darlin’, squeaky birds a cozy home this winter and a place to raise their young in the spring.

Buy Local, Impact Local

By participating in our Buy One, Give One holiday promotion, you not only have a positive impact on the birds we know and love, your purchase supports a local bird store in your community. Shopping local this holiday will have a wide-reaching impact for birds and people, and that’s a great thing!

There are many ways to buy your box:

Online at Wild Bird and Garden

  • Buy One, Give One for $50 and get it shipped to your door from Wilmington, NC

In-Person – Prices will vary

From Chapters – Prices will vary

Act now to make your gift go twice as far. The Buy One, Give One promotion will only be offered until the end of the year. Donated nest boxes will be distributed to Audubon North Carolina Chapters and other partners in your community to facilitate the nest box installation.

What is a Brown-headed Nuthatch?

A small bird – just under 4” – nuthatches sound just like a rubber ducky squeaky toy. With a home range from Virginia to east Texas, the nuthatch lives in old-growth pine or just about anywhere it can get its favorite food – pine seeds. Nuthatches live in family groups with their grown babies (mostly male birds) sticking around to help out with the next brood. These birds are also smart little whippersnappers — they use a piece of bark as a lever to pry up other bark to look for food. They also use bark as a pantry door to cover a seed cache.

Brown-headed Nuthatch by Maria de Bruyn.

Brown-headed Nuthatch by Maria de Bruyn.

Learn more about nuthatches with Curtis Smalling and some really cute kids! Click to watch our video about our work to install 10,000 Homes for Nuthatches across NC.

Nuthatches Need YOUR Help!

The Brown-headed Nuthatch needs your help to find a good home. Our southern birds are losing ground to urbanization and deforestation as the piedmont loses its pine forests. They build their nests in tree cavities, and without these cavities to use, placing nest boxes in your backyard will provide these cuties with a home year round – and that’s just good old southern hospitality!

These darlin’ squeaky birds need more nest boxes now, so we can all enjoy them for generations to come. Boxes designed for Bluebirds will work for Brown-headed Nuthatches, but they need to be outfitted with a smaller hole – no more than 1 1/8“ in diameter. Bluebirds and nuthatches get along, so you can put houses at least 30’ apart.

PERFECT Timing!

Now is the perfect time of year to put up a nest box in your bird-friendly backyard. Nuthatches begin building nests as early as December and usually lay 5-7 white speckled-with-brown eggs once a year from March through early May. Babies leave the nest by early June, but these little birds also roost in boxes all winter, so putting up boxes any time helps our squeaky friends.

Tell Us About Your New Neighbors

Once you’ve put up a home for nuthatches in your yard, we hope you’ll stay in touch! Tell us about your new neighbors. We’ve got plenty of ways to share your story of helping to protect nuthatches in North Carolina.

Launched in 2013, Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities initiative is a partnership program involving more than 20 organizations with a vision for creating a more bird-friendly North Carolina. This vision statement guides the goals and projects of the group: “Bird-friendly communities give birds the opportunity to succeed by providing connected habitat dominated by native plants, minimizing threats posed by the built environment, and engaging people of all ages and backgrounds in stewardship of nature.” 

Audubon NC is working with local chapters, partners and supporters to distribute 10,000 nest boxes for nuthatches this year to stop the decline of our southern bird. Nuthatches prefer semi-open habitat, but they are quite willing to nest in wooded and open areas – as long as there are pine trees nearby. Visit nc.audubon.org/nuthatch to get installation, timing and nest box maintenance instructions. 

Waterfowl on the Outer Banks

Please welcome Audubon North Carolina’s Donal C. O’Brien Jr. Sanctuary Director Robbie Fearn. Robbie will direct Audubon’s restoration and revitalization efforts for the Donal C. O’Brien Audubon Sanctuary and the adjacent Currituck Sound.

It’s November on the OBX and the waterfowl that overwinter here are just coming in. Each day, local hunters and birders look to sites like the Ducks Unlimited migration map and eBird to see who has been seen.

But many days, the best thing to do is just look up!

Out over the ocean, small flocks of sea ducks scurry above the waves rushing like commuters heading for a train. Late pods of pelicans move southward while Sanderlings and Willets burst forth, scattered down the beach by the passing shell collector.

In the maritime forest, dozens of species of migrating songbirds drop down to feast on the bounteous berries and insects as they head to warmer climates. Also in the forest – migrating raptors pause for a warm meal.

Photo by Mark Buckler.

Photo by Mark Buckler.

As birds take advantage of the winds in passing cold fronts to relocate farther south, a great time to look for them is just after a cold front passes. After the flight, they will rest and feed.

On the sound side, a few Osprey still hover, terns twist and dive, ducks pass by in their oft ragged clumps, and geese and swan in stately “V”s come rolling in.

Osprey by Mark Miller

Osprey by Mark Miller

But the most impressive flights in the autumn are often those of the Double-crested Cormorant. Stepping out of your house, you might startle from the sudden shadow passing overhead. Erratic lines of cormorants in flocks of 10 to 50 pass one after another. They seem to come from everywhere at once. A flight to the west, another north, over-head a flight, then three or four more passing within minutes of each other. And through a break in the trees, still more.

The cormorant is a little appreciated bird, its dark plumage appearing drab to most, but it has a bright blue eye and even more blue inside its mouth. Related to such bird wonders as gannets, boobies and frigatebirds, it comes off as a lesser cousin, but when it perches on dock posts with its wings spread to dry, or when its gangly form fills the sky, flapping by in rough, ever changing lines, it seems a fine herald to the season.

To learn more about the Audubon Sanctuary and the birds that call Corolla home, visit our website.

Zoo visitors view polar bears through bird-friendly glass

Please welcome Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities Coordinator Kim Brand. Launched in 2013, Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities initiative is a partnership program involving more than 20 organizations with a vision for creating a more bird-friendly North Carolina. This vision statement guides the goals and projects of the group: “Bird-friendly communities give birds the opportunity to succeed by providing connected habitat dominated by native plants, minimizing threats posed by the built environment, and engaging people of all ages and backgrounds in stewardship of nature.”

Window collisions kill hundreds of millions of birds each year in the United States, but programs to protect migrating birds are growing across the country. In Asheboro, the North Carolina Zoo has installed bird-friendly glass in the recently expanded polar bear exhibit, which will reduce window collisions from migrating and resident birds.

Polar bear’s view of bird-friendly glass in the new viewing area courtesy of the NC Zoo.

Polar bear’s view of bird-friendly glass in the new viewing area courtesy of the NC Zoo.

Zoo curators were determined to use new glass at the polar bear exhibit that would be safe for birds. General Curator Ken Reininger chose a well-researched bird protection glass during the planning and design process for this exhibit. The bird protection glass appears transparent to people from almost all angles, providing the clear view that is necessary for happy zoo visitors. Birds see farther into the ultraviolet end of the light spectrum than people do, and this bird protection glass takes advantage of that with an embedded UV-reflective pattern the birds can actually see. Kristen Hess at HH Architecture designed the exhibit expansion.

North Carolina Zoo’s Curator of Birds Debbie Zombeck keeps records of bird window collisions in the park, and looks for solutions for especially problematic windows. A glass panel in the cougar exhibit was causing several collisions during migration, so she’s asked zookeepers to cover the panel with bed sheets when the zoo is closed. When any exhibit is temporarily closed for an extended period of time, zookeepers mark the glass with soap to prevent bird strikes if the exhibit glass has been problematic. Zombeck expects future construction at the zoo to include bird-safe glass solutions as much as is economically feasible.

Zoo visitors can enjoy a clear view of polar bears through bird-friendly glass, which looks transparent to people but has an embedded UV-reflective pattern that birds see and avoid. The striped glass in the upper panel is also bird-friendly. The quarter-inch gaps between stripes are much too small for birds to consider flying through. Photo courtesy of the NC Zoo.

Zoo visitors can enjoy a clear view of polar bears through bird-friendly glass, which looks transparent to people but has an embedded UV-reflective pattern that birds see and avoid. The striped glass in the upper panel is also bird-friendly. The quarter-inch gaps between stripes are much too small for birds to consider flying through. Photo courtesy of the NC Zoo.

Markings on the outside of glass, if they are close enough together – vertical lines 4 inches apart or horizontal lines 2 inches apart – have been shown to reduce bird strikes dramatically. The polar bear exhibit also includes glass striped with ceramic frits from Glass Dynamics Inc. in Stoneville, NC.

Photo courtesy of Arnold Glas. What birds see when they look at bird friendly glass.

Photo courtesy of Arnold Glas. What birds see when they look at bird friendly glass.

Injured birds are rehabilitated on site at the Valerie Schindler Wildlife Center and released if they have recovered completely. Migratory species that retain some ability to fly but not enough to be released may be transferred to the RJ Reynolds Tropical Forest Aviary at the zoo. Current species on exhibit include the Summer Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Hermit Thrush.

Some of the recovered bird carcasses are sent to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh for their collection.

Window collisions aren’t exclusive to tall buildings and large developments. If you have a problem window in your own home, check out these solutions from Forsyth Audubon member and wildlife rehabilitator Jean Chamberlain.

To combat window collisions during peak migration time, Audubon North Carolina organizes Lights Out initiatives in three major cities including Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem. Click here to learn more about the program or find out how you can get involved.

Now is the best time to put up a nest box

Please welcome Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities Coordinator Kim Brand. Launched in 2013, Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities initiative is a partnership program involving more than 20 organizations with a vision for creating a more bird-friendly North Carolina. This vision statement guides the goals and projects of the group: “Bird-friendly communities give birds the opportunity to succeed by providing connected habitat dominated by native plants, minimizing threats posed by the built environment, and engaging people of all ages and backgrounds in stewardship of nature.”

Are you ready to make a home for a nuthatch in your bird-friendly backyard but not sure if now is the right time? Well, the best time for you to put up a nest box in your bird-friendly backyard is anytime you’re ready to do it. And for the nuthatch, the best time is NOW!

Brown-headed Nuthatches lay eggs and raise babies during a fairly short window in North Carolina – from March through May. But they have many uses for nest boxes throughout the year. The longer the box is up before breeding season begins, the better the chance that nuthatches will find and claim the box.

These birds are hard at work excavating natural cavities from November through May. That means that during more than half the year, they are interested in where they are going to nest come springtime. They have been known to begin building nests – adding pine seed wings, bark strips, decayed wood chips, and softer materials like feathers, cotton and wool to a natural cavity or nest box – as early as December.

Nest boxes also may attract young males looking for a territory to claim for their own. They might scope out possibilities any time of the year.

This nest box at Miller Park in Winston-Salem is ready for a nuthatch to take refuge inside. Photo by Kim Brand.

This nest box at Miller Park in Winston-Salem is ready for a nuthatch to take refuge inside. Photo by Kim Brand.

If you put up a nest box during winter, a Brown-headed Nuthatch could use it as a cozy bedroom on cold nights. Or maybe more than one nuthatch will show up, as happened at Hilton Pond in South Carolina one winter day:

“As we were opening a nest box for midwinter cleaning, a dozen or so Brown-headed Nuthatches exploded from within causing quite a rush and significant increase in our heart rate.” – Bill Hilton

Even if you miss the start of nuthatch breeding season, there’s always next winter and next breeding season. Know that by putting up a nuthatch nest box, you are helping these adorable squeaky birds for many years to come!

For more information on Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities program to make a home for Brown-headed Nuthatch, visit our website or explore some blog posts.

Conservation Strategies at Work Across the Atlantic Flyway

Please welcome Audubon North Carolina conservation biologist Aimee Tomcho. As part of the Putting Working Lands to Work initiative, Aimee is engaging landowners across Western North Carolina to develop and restore habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler. Check in on her progress.

During October, seven Audubon biologists met in New York to discuss Atlantic Flyway-wide conservation strategies for the Working Lands initiative. From that meeting, the Audubon NC staff in Western NC is energized to continue putting working lands to work for the Golden-winged Warbler. Read on to see what they’ve learned.

Nationwide Conservation

Audubon’s Strategic Plan focuses on five important conservation strategies nationwide: Putting Working Lands to Work for Birds and People, Sharing our Seas and Shores, Saving Important Bird Areas, Shaping a Healthy Climate and Clean Energy Future, and Creating Bird-Friendly Communities. Click here to learn more on how Audubon North Carolina is working with all of these strategies to support birds across our state.

Each of these initiatives aligns Audubon’s work along the four flyways of the Americas–Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific.

“By connecting the Audubon network all along each of these migratory pathways for birds, we can weave a seamless web of conservation for both migratory and non-migratory species. And by coordinating resources and expertise, we can increase our efficiency across the network.” – Audubon’s Strategic Plan 2012-2015

The work to engage working landowners with management practices that can sustain their land’s work and the wildlife that occupies it becomes critical to conservation success.

“The Atlantic Flyway encompasses some of the hemisphere’s most productive ecosystems, including forests, beaches and coastal wetlands. From the northern Atlantic coast, and through the Caribbean to South America, Audubon is working to support this avian superhighway’s 500-plus bird species and millions of individual birds. Forty percent of the Atlantic Flyway’s bird species are species of conservation need. With only one-tenth of the U.S. landmass, this flyway is home to one-third of the nation’s people.” – Audubon’s Strategic Plan 2012-2015

Applying Strategies to North Carolina

In the Atlantic Flyway, biologists along the Appalachian Mountains are focusing on the Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA), a species with rapid population decline that inhabits “working lands”. The GWWA is not the only bird whose future depends on this land.

“Best management practices on ranches, farms, and forests hold the key to survival for more than 150 species of threatened grassland and forest birds.” – Audubon’s Strategic Plan 2012-2015

Biologists from New York, Vermont, and North Carolina discuss habitat management practices being implemented to increase golden-winged warbler populations in New York with Curtis Smalling, Audubon North Carolina’s Director of Landbird Conservation. Photo by Aimee Tomcho.

Biologists from New York, Vermont, and North Carolina discuss habitat management practices being implemented to increase golden-winged warbler populations in New York with Curtis Smalling, Audubon North Carolina’s Director of Landbird Conservation. Photo by Aimee Tomcho.

Matching management strategies with various environments and funding sources can be a complicated endeavor. Taking advantage of being a national network, Audubon is able to proactively address successes and failures to map out efficient regional management plans.

Strategy mapping was enhanced when seven Audubon biologists met in New York in early October to discuss Atlantic Flyway-wide conservation strategies for Putting Working Lands to Work for Birds and People. Details emerged on ways to best utilize Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Farm Bill-associated conservation practices to match the variation of landscape-level needs along the Atlantic Flyway’s range of suitable breeding habitat for GWWAs and other associated species.

In North Carolina, the limiting factor is percentage of early successional habitat, or grass and shrub land, across the landscape. However, in the Champlain Valley of New York and Vermont, the structural element limiting expanding GWWA populations is the abundance of adequate patches of forest. What will this mean if climate change eventually moves the GWWA range northward?

In contrast to North Carolina, presence of canopy trees can be a limiting factor in New York and Vermont. Photo by Aimee Tomcho.

In contrast to North Carolina, presence of canopy trees can be a limiting factor in New York and Vermont. Photo by Aimee Tomcho.

Partnerships Enhancing Successes

Audubon biologists visited a privately owned land parcel where GWWA have been observed during the nesting season. By partnering with the NRCS, Audubon is able to connect landowners with funding sources to put management recommendations on the ground. This work can most effectively be done when land managers can discuss range-wide conservation strategies and outcomes. Simple management techniques implemented this fall and winter will enhance the suitable habitat when Neotropical migrants return to for the breeding season.

Audubon biologists gather after making management recommendations at a private landowner’s parcel. The abundant apple trees benefit golden-winged warblers (as well as visiting biologists!). From left: Margaret Fowle (Vermont), Aimee Tomcho (North Carolina), Curtis Smalling (North Carolina), Mark LaBarr (Vermont), Linnea Rowse (New York), Mike Burger (New York), Andy Hinickle (New York). Photo by NY Landowner.

Audubon biologists gather after making management recommendations at a private landowner’s parcel. The abundant apple trees benefit golden-winged warblers (as well as visiting biologists!). From left: Margaret Fowle (Vermont), Aimee Tomcho (North Carolina), Curtis Smalling (North Carolina), Mark LaBarr (Vermont), Linnea Rowse (New York), Mike Burger (New York), Andy Hinickle (New York). Photo by NY Landowner.

Like Audubon NC, Audubon NY also partners with local land trusts to effect habitat change across the landscape. 1000 Islands Land Trust is working to manage a newly acquired conservation easement to balance active game hunting, bird watching and other recreation uses. At Otter Creek Preserve, Audubon NY biologist Andy Hinickle’s knowledge of grass and shrub land management is sought to enhance the land trust’s strategy for setting goals and priorities. Check out their Facebook post about our visit here.

Passion for Conservation

Wherever Audubon field biologists are, you can be sure they are passionately working to conserve habitat across the region to preserve the birds you love. Whether our feathered friends stop to forage in North Carolina on their way from Central America to breeding grounds in the Champlain Valley or build their nest in Southern Appalachian Mountains, we work to help ensure the habitat can meet the needs of birds, and people too.

Audubon New York’s Director of Conservation and Science Mike Burger spots an interesting bird on land being managed for early successional forest habitat with biologists Linnea Rowse and Aimee Tomcho. Photo by Margaret Fowle.

Audubon New York’s Director of Conservation and Science Mike Burger spots an interesting bird on land being managed for early successional forest habitat with biologists Linnea Rowse and Aimee Tomcho. Photo by Margaret Fowle.

To learn more about Audubon NC’s work with landowners in Western North Carolina to preserve nesting habitats for the GWWA visit our website.