Every once in awhile Nature blesses one with the unusual and unexpected. Such was the case on a recent field trip into the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.
On October 14th I was having some fun with young Red Squirrels and Chipmunks by placing a little bird seed mix on a large fallen Black Cherry log next to an Eastern Hemlock Tree on a steep bank beside a small stream at the edge of dense forest behind the cabin. The chipmunks and squirrels were fast learners and in relatively short order a Black-Capped Chickadee and a Tufted Titmouse found the seed and started making frequent trips back and forth to the log.
I was filming this routine action just for fun when suddenly a male White-Breasted Nuthatch landed center stage in the middle of the log and put on a continuous two-plus minute "dance" - or ballet if you will - to scare off chipmunks to the left and right and a red squirrel on the Hemlock just in front of him that was simply incredible. It's purpose was to make himself look big and scary no doubt - much like our Screech Owls do at times when confronted with a threat.
Well it worked, for over two minutes as the film rolled this little Nuthatch put on quite a show that had elements of a defensive and a courtship dance while the furry mammals watched, no doubt in amazement, from the cheap seats. Towards the end of the dance the Nuthatch appears to get a bit tired - it was quite a physical dance with its long legs pushing hard against its tail feathers to anchor himself to the log and then sway and sashay around the log. It is certainly a strong little bird and more beautiful than many people give it credit for. Incredibly it did the performance for the reward of exactly one sunflower seed!
After it left a Chickadee made a quick grab at a seed and the chipmunk and squirrel were just getting ready to return when the Nuthatch came back and scared them off again with a brief display and a quick seed grab. After that the Nuthatch never returned and the mammals came back to finish off the seed. Probably a one-in-a-million performance!
I will never forget this little bird that put on one of the most amazing and unexpected dance performances. I was able to capture the complete two-minute "ballet" from arrival to departure and as near as I can tell there is no other such complete and extended footage on the "web". It illustrates the under-appreciated beauty, grace, strength, and character of the White-Breasted Nuthatch. This little bird shows how nature is always full of surprises for even the most jaded observers.
Center Stage - Video: Dance of the Nuthatch
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Kicking it Up!
Shake it waaay to the left!