|Resin in beak!|
When it looked like the nuthatches were going to take over the lease, I read up on them to see if anything would be much different, other than that they'd be producing tiny invisible nuthatches instead of tiny invisible chickadees. One of the things I read that seemed a little exotic was that they might be inclined to daub pine resin around their nest-box hole. They might bring the resin in their beaks, or they might even use a tool, a piece of bark or a mortar trowel or something, to smear it around. The male is in charge of goobering up the outside of the hole and the female works on the inside. "It is thought," the literature says dubiously, "that this is meant to deter predators." In other words, no one's really sure why they do it. Presumably the nuthatches themselves avoid the sticky resin by shooting straight through the hole on the wing.
|Toes rearranged for hanging upside-down|
|Business end of a male nuthatch|
And then we saw it: pine resin coming in! The male was hanging outside the box by one toenail and smooshing resin on the outside of the hole, just like he'd read his own Wikipedia entry. This seemed serious. It's sticky stuff and not something you'd necessarily want on your own personal beak if you were planning to eat, unless you were driven. He'd schmear it around and then go to a nearby twig to try to scrape off the excess.
I was thrilled. Then, over the course of a few weeks, they brought in more and more resin, and the sun melted it so it ran all over the outside of the box, and every time one of them exited they dragged nesting material out, and it dangled from their toes like stuck toilet paper. Pieces of fluff and fur and bark strips are hanging out of the hole, dripping with resin. It looks like hell. The chickadees did everything but neatly line up plastic flamingoes and solar lights on the walkway. These guys were of a completely different school. They've got a broken-down washing machine on the front porch and a dead car in the yard and plastic toys and beer cans. They's slovenly.
There's so much resin on the place that I fear for the hatchlings. I never did witness the chickadee puppies' maiden flights, but if these little guys don't get a really good jump, they're going to end up glued to the side of the house. Nuthatches On A Stick. It will look like carnival food for hawks. I can't bear to watch.