White-breasted NuthatchSitta carolinensis

adult male
James M. Wedge/VIREO
adult female
Garth McElroy/VIREO
adult male
Adrian & Jane Binns/VIREO
adult female
Brian E. Small/VIREO
adult female
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
White-breasted Nuthatch

Family

Description

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

Voice

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

Listen

whines
song #4
song #1
song #2
song #3
yank calls #3
yank calls #2
yank calls #1
ik & ik-up calls and tapping

Habitat

Deciduous and mixed forests.

Range

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.

Discussion

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.

Nesting

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.

Similar Species

adult

Carolina Chickadee

4-5" (10-13 cm). Similar to more northern Black-capped Chickadee, but feathers of folded wing usually show less white edging; lower edge of black bib more sharply defined than that of Black-capped.

adult male

Red-breasted Nuthatch

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.

adult

Brown-headed Nuthatch

4-5" (10-13 cm). Smaller than a sparrow. Upperparts dull blue-gray, underparts whitish. Crown dull brown, with whitish spot on nape.

adult

Pygmy Nuthatch

3 3/4-4 1/2" (10-11 cm). A small nuthatch. Bluish gray above, with gray-brown cap terminated by indistinct black eye line. Faint white smudge at base of nape. Creamy white below.

adult

Brown Creeper

5-5 3/4" (13-15 cm). Smaller than a sparrow. A slender, streaked, brown bird, tinged with buff on flanks, usually seen creeping up tree trunks, using long, stiff tail for support.

Vireo

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