Right Side Up

White-Breasted Nuthatch Pointing Earthward

 Excuse me, sir—is your beak pointing down?

If you, gentle reader, were dressed as a Nuthatch, I’m pretty sure your answer would be “Yes, of course!”

But what would Wendell the White-Breasted Nuthatch tell us? Is earthward down for him? Is skyward up? Or does he see things the other way around?

I mean, the pose you see here is quite normal for a Nuthatch…

And I can’t help wondering…

Is the world that Wendell perceives here—is it actually right-side up? You see…

I’ve read that human eyes project an upside-down world onto our retinas…

…and it’s our brains that correct the flip, and turn the world right-side up again.

Neat trick, yes? That’s how our species survived, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same with most other vertebrates. But, when I look at my photos of Wendell, I wonder…

Did Nuthatch eyesight evolve to reverse the reversal?

Is it more efficient for them to see earthward as up and skyward as down? I’ve been wondering about this for quite some time, and..

While casting about for an answer, I came across a great article by one Mr. Joe Rankin, titled…

Nuthatches: The Upside-Down Birds.

Mr. Rankin theorizes that Nuthatches can see niches in tree bark that might be quite invisible to right-side-up birds. So they can hide seeds in nifty little caches that squirrels and chickadees can’t see, which helps Nuthatches survive the winter.

Doesn’t answer my question, but I couldn’t help sharing it with you. I like the way he thinks.

Nuthatches are so cool.

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