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White-breasted Nuthatch

Common Name: White-breasted Nuthatch.

Scientific Name: Sitta Carolinensis.

What to look for?  White-breasted Nuthatches are small birds with a large head and almost no neck. They have black crowns on their heads with white cheeks and white undersides. Their back is bluish-gray; and their wings and tails are a mixture of white, black, and bluish-gray. Females tend to be somewhat grayer overall and have dark gray feathers crowning their head.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? You can find White-breasted Nuthatches around here all year. They can be found hopping up and down tree trunks here. And they may show up at bird feeders or making lots of quick trips to and from your feeder.

How big are they? The White-breasted Nuthatch averages just over five inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately nine inches. They weigh in at around ¾ of one ounce.

What are their flight patterns? White-breasted Nuthatch has a rapid flight. They alternate several rapid wing beats with wings drawn to sides. This flight style is called "Flap-bounding" where short bursts of flapping are alternated with intervals in which the wings are folded against the body.

How else do they behave? White-breasted Nuthatches are agile birds that creep along trunks and large branches as they probe for food. And they do this often turn sideways and upside down on vertical surfaces. Unlike woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches do not lean against their tails to support themselves on these vertical surfaces. When they find large nuts and seeds, White-breasted Nuthatches jam them into the bark and hammer them open. They often store seeds and insects one at a time under loose bark on their territory.

What’s for dinner? White-breasted Nuthatches eat mainly insects. They also eat seeds and nuts. At bird feeders, they eat sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, and peanut butter.

Where do they take up residence? White-breasted Nuthatches reside permanently across much of the U.S. They may be found in mature woods and woodland edges, including maple, hickory, basswood, and oak. White-breasted Nuthatches may be in suburbs or parks as long as large trees are present. Like all birds that nest in holes in trees, White-breasted Nuthatches depend on having dead or partially dead trees left standing in their habitat.

When and where do they breed and nest? White-breasted Nuthatches typically build their nests in natural tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes. Pairs remain together on nesting territory all year and may mate for life. Courtship behavior begins by late winter. Most breeding is done between May and June.

Where do they migrate? White-breasted Nuthatches do not migrate. They are residents year around across most of the U.S.

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the White-breasted Nuthatch has seen slight increases in populations. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 10 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? In late winter and spring, White-breasted Nuthatches sing a rapid, nasal, low-pitched “wha-wha-wha”. The White-breasted Nuthatch’s most common call is a loud, nasal “yank” often repeated. Here is a link to the sounds of the White-breasted Nuthatch.

Interesting Facts About the White-breasted Nuthatch:

  • They get their common name “nuthatch” from their habit of jamming large nuts and acorns into tree bark, then whacking them with their sharp bill to “hatch” out the seed from the inside.

  • Recognizable for perching upside-down on tree trunks.

  • The White-breasted Nuthatch is normally territorial throughout the year with pairs staying together.

  • They store seeds for later in the winter by wedging them into furrows in the bark of nearby trees.

  • The oldest known White-Breasted Nuthatch lived almost 10 years.

  • Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 9.2 million.

For more information on the White-breasted Nuthatch and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society and National Geographic.  And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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