Red-Breasted Nuthatch

(Sitta canadensis)

The Red-Breasted Nuthatch.

Nuthatches are another great little bird that are high on my list. But, they don't visit every year.

While a permanent resident in its breeding range, they are an irruptive bird that migrates south during periods of a short food supply of conifer seeds. Usually every three years.

You'll often see this bird upside down on the side of a tree trunk, gleaning insects from bark crevices.


The Red-Breasted Nuthatch measures about 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inches in length.

They have a black cap, black eyeline, and white eyebrow.

A stocky, small bird, with a short tail. Blue-gray back with rusty underparts.

The female and young have duller head markings and lighter underparts.

A joy to have in your yard.

Mating Habits:

Considered monogamous, nuthatches carry out their courtship displays at the top of trees.

Males can be heard singing their courtship song in early morning. Also from the top of trees.

Nesting Habits:

Beginning in late April early May, the nuthatch pair begins excavating a cavity nest in a dead tree. The nest site can be anywhere from 5 to 100 feet above ground. Although 15 feet above ground is about average. Sometimes uses bird houses.

Inside the cavity, bark strips, grass and plant fibers are placed at the bottom for nesting materials.

An interesting note about the Red-Breasted Nuthatch is their habit of placing droplets of resin, or pitch, from balsam fir, or pine trees to smear around the entrance hole of the nesting site.

This practice continues throughout the nesting phase, resulting in an area sometimes 2 inches or more smeared with the sticky substance.

The reason for doing this is really unknown. Speculation is to keep ants and small mammals from entering.

The nuthatches themselves are able to fly straight into the hole without being affected by the pitch.

The female lays 4 - 7 eggs that are white and finely spotted with brown. Incubation last about 12 days.

Red-breasted nuthatch

Sources differ on whether the female or both sexes incubate.

The young leave the nest 18 - 21 days after hatching.

Feeding Habits:

The Red-Breasted Nuthatch diet consists of conifer seeds and insects. You will see these little birds hanging upside down and climbing down looking under bark to get insects other birds didn't see.

They are easily be attracted feeders filled with sunflower seed or shelled peanuts. Suet feeders can also be use to attract these birds.

Nuthatches cache food and recall where is is stashed for up to 30 days.

As you can see by the above picture, they are easy to hand train as well.

As an irruptive bird, I don't have these friendly birds every year, but when they do bless me with their presence, I have them eating from my hand in no time at all.

Red-Breasted Nuthatches Enjoy High Energy Peanuts

Offer Suet

Choose the Right Feeders

Habitat will Attract Birds,

Trees for Food and Shelter

Other Common Birds

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