Even before the cold, while the leaves were still on the maples and oaks and ashes, the canopies of those trees started to dance with migrating warblers fluttering from branch to twig checking under every leaf to pick off little insects, spiders and mites. We may see these creepy-crawlies as possible pests. Warblers see them as fatty fuel for a long flight to southern wintering grounds.


After the warblers flew on, and the winter’s cold began, you may have put up your bird feeders. All around your feeder, Chickadees inspected the bark of bared twigs for anything the warblers missed. They found mites in cracks of the bark and eggs stuck to the twigs to hatch into next spring’s insects. For Chickadees these were not migration fuel but were insulation against the dropping night temperatures. Small birds must fight the cold by burning their fat, even when hiding in the relative warmth of conifers that trap heat as it radiates from the earth.


White-breasted Nuthatches take large seeds from the feeder and cache them in bark crevices, tapping them deep with their beaks. Between seed trips, upside down on the tree trunks, they use their strong beaks to go deeper into the bark’s crevices fishing out hiding beetles, spiders, insect eggs and more.


Suddenly the big White-breasted Nuthatch explodes away as a smaller, but apparently more threatening, Red-breasted Nuthatch claims the foraging rights, working into smaller crevices along mid-sized branches and down the trunk.


Quietly, off in the wings, the Brown Creeper with its longer flexible beak searches the tree trunk, bottom to top, reaching morsels missed by the nuthatches in narrow cracks in the bark. Then off to the bottom of another tree for up-searching.


Low-frequency insect noises from deeper in the trees give the direction needed by woodpeckers that are equipped with strong skulls, necks and beaks backed up by bracing tails. The woodpeckers remove enough wood to control the real threat to the tree – insects working deep inside the wood. Downy, Hairy and Pileated share the food according to its depth in the tree, the noise made by the insect and the size of the woodpeckers. Without these deep diggers, insect larvae would change the structure of the woods very rapidly.


Nature’s cleaners are the truly peerless insecticides.


Nuthatch, WB cu 3 crop adj 100dpi 10X

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