Brown-headed Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Sitta pusilla

Family: Sittidae

The Brown-headed Nuthatch is a small bird of only 4-5" in length with a wingspread around 7 3/4". The sexes are outwardly alike with blue-gray above except for a buffy brown cap and nape, a spot of white in brown of the nape where it meets the back, and white below which is a little paler than the other nuthatches.

This bird spends most of it's life in open pine woods, clearings, mixed forests of pines and hardwoods and small cypress swamps in the woods. As in all the nuthatches, the brown-headed work their way down a tree trunk searching for grubs and insects in the bark crevices that other up-climbing tree foragers, such as the woodpecker, would miss. When not in pairs in the nesting season, they travel in family groups of small flocks, sometimes with woodpeckers, kinglets, pine warblers, and titmice. They forage over branches, twigs and at end of the branches and often hang head downward from a cluster of pine needles. They creep either up or down tree trunks, fence posts and utility poles.


The song of this bird is harsher than other nuthatches. It is a conversational pit, pit chirpping sound and a dee-dee-dee call like the chickadees. During breeding season, it utters a song of pri-u, de-u, de-u.


South Eastern United States from Texas to Virginia.


Both male and female construct a cavity in a tree, stump, utility pole or post anywhere between 2-50 feet above the ground, but usually less than 10 feet. Sometimes they will nest in a man-made bird box. They fill the cavity/nest with dried grasses, weed stems, strips of bark, corn husks, wool/cotton and feathers. Between the months of March-May, as many as 6 white with brown blotches or spotted eggs are laid. Incubation is by both sexes and lasts about 14 days. The first young bird leaves the nest about 18 days after hatching.

Natural Feeding Habits:

Forages over branches, twigs, creeps up and down tree trunks in search of beetles, bugs, roaches, caterpillars, moths, ants, grasshoppers, scale insects, pine seeds and spiders. When they are foraging, you can hear the medley of the soft pit pit sounds and harsh, reedy pipings. They often scold at intruders. If the brown-headed nuthatch is alarmed, the bird hides by freezing against the bard that they match so closely in color.

Feeding Stations:

Seeds and suet bring them readily to the feeding tray. Like the other nuthatches, they prefer suet, chopped kernels of walnuts, pecans, peanuts and sunflower seeds.

Other Names:

Another name for the Brown-headed Nuthatch is Gray-headed Nuthatch which is a paler form found in the open pinelands of Florida.

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