Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Sitta canadensis

Family: Sittidae

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is blue-gray above, buffy or red-brown below, black cap, white stripe above eyes, black line through eyes, and measures 4 1/2-4 3/4" in length with a wingspread of 8-8 1/2". The female is similar, but has a blackish-blue cap.

This bird spends most of it's life in large trees in areas such as forests of balsam fir and spruce in the North and also in fir forests in the Pacific coast. Like the White-breasted Nuthatch, they 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. The red-breasted moves over bark of trees very rapidly (quicker than their relative, the white-breasted) or winds about small twigs and needles of conifers at the ends of branches, darts out into air for flying insects and travels in small companies at the end of summer.


Red-breasted Nuthatches are more sociable, chattering constantly among themselves. The song is a high pitch nasal ank, ank, ank, and high-pitched tin-whistle note, wa-wa-wa-wa-wa, that sounds like a band of penny trumpeters. The commonest notes is it-it-it or hit or kick.


Breeds from North Western Canada to California, through the Rockies and across the border and Great Lakes region. Also southwards from Newfoundland to the Appalachians.


Red-breasted Nuthatches usually excavate a nesting place in a dead stub or limb of pine, cottonwood and other trees. The nest is can be anywhere from 5-100 feet up in trees, but usually about 15 feet above ground. They also use deserted woodpecker holes and sometimes they will nest in a man-made bird box. They smear pitch of coniferous trees with their bill around the entrance to the nest cavity. It is unknown why this bird taps pitch around the entrance hole. Nest materials include grasses, rootlets, mosses, shreds of bark and plant fibers. Throughout the months of April and May, as many as 6 eggs are laid. The eggs are white or creamy with brown spots. The eggs take 12 days to hatch and are incubated by both sexes. The first young bird leaves the nest about 18-21 days after hatching.

Natural Feeding Habits:

They are very fond of seeds of pines, spruces, firs and other conifer trees. They pry open the pine cone scales with their bills to extract the seeds. In the spring and summer, the red-breasted nuthatch feeds on beetles, wasps, caterpillars, insect eggs, crane flies, and moths of spruce budworm.

Feeding Stations:

Comes to feeding stations for suet, chopped kernels of walnuts, pecans, peanuts and sunflower seeds.

Other Names:

Other names for the Red-breasted Nuthatch are; Canada Nuthatch, Devil-down-head, Red-bellied Nuthatch, and Topsy-turvy-bird.

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