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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