White-breasted Nuthatches Raising Young
White-breasted Nuthatches maintain their pair bond throughout the year. In the spring, after mating, the female builds her nest, lining the tree cavity (natural or old woodpecker hole) with fur, bark, and lumps of dirt and then making a cup nest of grasses and bark inside the cavity. She then lays her 5 – 9 eggs and incubates them for roughly two weeks, during which time the male brings her food.
After the eggs hatch, both parents provide their nestlings with food until they fledge. Initially the female remains with the young, and the male brings food for both her and the nestlings. His trips become more frequent during the first few days, starting at about 7 trips an hour and increasing to 13. After three or four days the female also participates in food gathering, as much or more than the male.
The average day length in June is approximately 15 ½ hours. At 26 deliveries/hour (13 per parent) that comes to a total of around 400 foraging trips a day for the majority of the 26 days before White-breasted Nuthatch nestlings fledge. Impressive, especially when you consider that many of these trips involve not only delivering food but also removing the nestlings’ fecal sacs.
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