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White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch
Sitta carolinensis
Tree-clinging Birds | Family: Nuthatches, Sittidae

An estimated 2% of the species' North American breeding range lies within the Boreal Forest.



The habit of creeping headfirst down a tree trunk, then stopping and looking around with head held out at a 90-degree angle, is characteristic of nuthatches. The White-breasted is an inquisitive, acrobatic bird, pausing occasionally to hang and hammer at a crack. Essentially nonmigratory, during the fall it stores food for winter in crevices behind loose tree bark. Pairs seem to remain together year-round, for the species may be found in twos even in the dead of winter. Although they often join mixed flocks of chickadees, woodpeckers, and kinglets roaming the winter woods, they tend to remain in their territories. They are familiar visitors to bird feeders.


5-6" (13-15 cm). Sparrow-sized. Blue-gray above, white underparts and face, black crown. Usually seen creeping on tree trunks, head downward.


A nasal yank-yank. Song a series of low whistled notes.


5 or 6 white eggs, lightly speckled with red-brown, in a cup of twigs and grass lined with feathers and hair in a natural cavity, bird box, or hole excavated by the birds.


Deciduous and mixed forests.


Largely resident from British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia south to southern California, Arizona, Gulf Coast, and central Florida. Absent from most of Great Plains.