Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
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Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Sitta canadensis
Tree-clinging Birds | Family: Nuthatches, Sittidae

An estimated 25% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

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Overview

Nuthatches hoard excess food and will transport seed from a tree heavily laden with mature cones to their distant larders. In years of bad harvest, they migrate in large numbers to more southerly forests. They also feed on bark insects, maneuvering with agility around the tips of small, outer branches or in treetops.

Description

4 1/2 -4 3/4" (11-12 cm). Smaller than a sparrow. Male has blue-gray upperparts, pale rust-colored underparts, black crown and line through eye, and white eyebrow. Female similar, but crown is gray.

Voice

A tinny yank-yank, higher pitched and more nasal than the call of the White-breasted Nuthatch.

Nesting

5 or 6 white eggs, spotted with red-brown, in a cup of twigs and grass lined with softer material and placed in a tree cavity. The entrance is usually smeared with pitch, presumably to discourage predators; the pitch often gets on the bird's feathers giving them a messy appearance.

Habitat

Coniferous forests; more widespread during migration and in winter.

Range/Migration

Breeds across Canada from southeastern Alaska, Manitoba, and Newfoundland south to southern California, Arizona, Great Lakes region, and northern New England, and south in Appalachians to North Carolina. Winters in breeding range and irregularly south to Gulf Coast and northern Florida.