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Our Backyard Birds: The White-breasted Nuthatch

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A white-breasted nuthatch	(Sitta carolinensis) perched on a tree
Little Nuthatch

Our Backyard Birds:

The White-breasted Nuthatch

(Sitta carolinensis)



The White-breasted Nuthatch eat insects, including weevil larvae, wood-boring beetle larvae, treehoppers, scale insects, ants, gall fly larvae, caterpillars, stinkbugs, and click beetles, as well as spiders. They will also eat seeds and nuts from backyards and backyard feeders, which include corn, sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, and peanut butter.


Platform feeders are the most preferred feeder but they will come to a well-placed suet feeder.


The White-breasted nuthatch is a small compact, no-necked, short-tailed bird with a long sharply pointed bill. They have a blue-gray back with stark white cheeks, and a black cap. It also has a white belly and rusty spots near its rear. The females look just like the males except their cap is grayer.


White-breasted nuthatches are non-migratory and normally live in pairs in their territory year-round. In winter, however, they will travel with small mixed flocks of chickadees, titmice, and woodpeckers. White-breasted Nuthatches forage up, down, and sideways over tree trunks and around large branches. They often (though not always) start high in trees and move down them head first, pausing to crane their necks up and back for a look around. They probe into bark crevices or chip away at wood to find food. When they find large nuts and seeds, they wedge them into the bark and hammer or "hack" at the food with their strong bills to tear it apart. Hence the name, nuthatch! They may occasionally feed on the ground and readily visit backyard feeders, especially for sunflower seeds, which they often take to store.

White-breasted nuthatches are very noisy birds with a range of vocalizations. The contact call between pairs, given most frequently in the fall and winter, is a thin squeaky 'nit' uttered up to 30 times a minute.

White-breasted nuthatches are monogamous, forming pairs that remain together year-round until one partner dies or disappears. Couples are formed following a courtship in which the male bows to the female, spreading his tail and drooping his wings while swaying back and forth. He also feeds her small bites of food. The pair establish a territory where they find a nest cavity to lay eggs. It is usually a natural hole in a decaying tree, sometimes an old woodpecker nest. The male feeds the female while she is incubating but both adults feed the chicks in the nest for about 2 weeks after fledging. Once independent, juveniles leave the adults' territory and establish their own territory or become "floaters", unpaired birds without territories.

White-breasted nuthatches play an important role by controlling insect populations and dispersing the seeds of many plants throughout their ecosystem.

A white-breasted nuthatch	(Sitta carolinensis) on a small limb
Texas Nuthatch

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the White-breasted Nuthatch and how you can attract them to your backyard. If this is your first time visiting my website or reading one of my blog posts, welcome, and thank you for joining us. Please subscribe here so you can receive updates on the next blog posts on Backyard Birding. You will also receive occasional discounts and newsletters. Remember to follow the Nature First and Leave No Trace principles and always strive to leave places better than you found them. Please share this blog post with your friends and family who have a love for birds, bird photography, or backyard birding.


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