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white-breasted nuthatch

The Snarf

Source: Personal experience

Read this and other stories in the book, Noticing Nature, by Chuck Bonner. Also available in e-book format for Amazon Kindle.

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For years, I'd been hearing an odd bird call and never could identify what bird was making it. Now I know.

Many years ago, when my kids were actually kids, there was an animated television show called "The Thundercats." The heroes were heavily anthropomorphosed, but recognizable as a lion, a tiger, a leopard, etc. Their sidekick, less anthropomorphosed but still able to talk, was not recognizable as any particular kind of cat. He was just a little annoying cat-type creature that they said was a "snarf," and his name was Snarf. He punctuated all of his complaints and dire predictions of doom with a whiny "Snarf! Snarf!"

I often heard a bird out in the woods whose call sounded like that "Snarf! Snarf!" I was never able to identify what bird was making it. The sound was rather loud, but it was obviously a small bird making it, and one that was generally hard to see. I was usually busy when I heard it, so I couldn't take time to concentrate on finding the snarf. Had to prepare camp breakfast or answer some child's important question about something other than the snarf.

One afternoon in Mine Falls Park, I heard the snarf in the trees overhead. As always, there was something else going on that I didn't want to take my eyes off of, but that's another story.

During a lull in the action, I took a moment to look for the snarf. There it was: A white-breasted nuthatch climbing down a pine tree above me. I watched a while, and sure enough, the bird emitted a call while I watched. "Snarf! Snarf!"

My written references all describe the call of the white-breasted nuthatch as a nasal "yank-yank." For me, it will always be "Snarf! Snarf!"

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