Oct 14, 2020 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, October 2020

Nuthatch Essentials: What to Know

Four North American nuthatches: white-breasted nuthatch (upper left) by Shutterstock; red-breasted nuthatch (upper right) by A. Reago & C. McClarren / Wikimedia; pygmy nuthatch (lower left) by G. Schechter / Wikimedia; and brown-headed nuthatch (lower right) by D. Daniels / Wikimedia.

Four species of nuthatches reside in North America:

• White-breasted is found coast-to-coast and is nonmigratory.

• Red-breasted is a year-round resident of the West and from Alaska to Newfoundland, but a winter visitor east of the Rocky Mountains.

• Pygmy is found in coniferous forests in the West and does not migrate.

• Brown-headed is a year-round denizen of pine forests in the Southeast.

All nuthatches have short tails and long bills, and uniquely climb headfirst down tree trunks, gleaning insects from under the bark. Nuthatches nest in cavities.

Male and female pygmy and brown-headed nuthatches are identical, but male and female red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches can be distinguished: Females are duller in color.

Attract nuthatches to your yard by offering sunflower seeds, peanuts, or suet.

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The Latest Comments

  • I am excited to have my daughter’s tree this year, since my landlord has removed the lovely yew next to my patio, which was the only shelter for birds at my feeder.
    by pmalcpoet, Mon, 20 Dec 2021
  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021