White-breasted Nuthatch - The Upside Down Bird

Probably the most common trait of the White-breasted Nuthatch bird is its ability to go headfirst down a tree trunk.

Woodpeckers and nuthatches share the role of gleaning insects from the trunks and larger limbs of trees. Their styles may differ as woodpeckers will hop around the trunk on their way up, and nuthatches move downward getting whatever insects might have been missed.

This bird is around all year long but mostly seen in winter.


White-breasted Nuthatch

They measure about 5 to 6 inches in length. These small birds have a dark crown and nape with a white face and a gray back. Varying amounts of reddish brown on rump and flanks.

Sexes differ in color of crown and back. The female bird has a gray or dull black crown and nape.

White-breasted Nuthatch Call

Mating Courtship Habits

Nuthatches can begin their mating and courtship habits as early as January. The male bird will begin his song and in response the female may approach and remain still as she perches nearby.

After a while the two will go off and feed together for the day. At days end, each goes to a separate hole to roost for the night.

These birds also engage in mate-feeding. The male bird collects a morsel of food, flies to the female, and then places the food in her bill.

Both parents feed young during the first days after hatching, the male brings most of the food while the female spends much time in the nest.

In first 4 days after hatching, feeding rate of male increases from 7 to 12 trips per hours.

Later, the female becomes more active in feeding young. In last 7 days before fledging, one female made 14 feeding trips per hour and the male made 7.7 trips per hour.

Nesting Habits

The Nuthatches nest is a natural cavity in a broken limb or tree trunk or perhaps an old woodpecker hole. If the wood is soft enough they will excavate their own hole.

The nest is a mass of bark strips, hair and feathers. Located 15 to 50 feet above ground.

The female lays 3 to 10 eggs that are white, spotted with brown, red, and gray. Incubation is done by both female and male for 12 days and the young will leave the nest about 14 days after hatching.

Feeding Habits

More common at bird feeders and more widespread than its smaller red-breasted nuthatch relative.

The White-breasted Nuthatch has a diet that consist of nuts, seeds, insects, and fruits. These birds often store food in the bark of trees for hard times.

The name comes from "nuthack," which referred to the bird's eating habits. Watch when it eats a sunflower seed or a nut. This bird will wedge it into a crevice and hack it open.

Through fall and winter this bird will travel with its close relatives the chickadees and titmice as they forage for food.

Try placing a suet feeder near your seed feeders to attract the White-breasted Nuthatch to your yard.

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