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White-breasted Nuthatch

Sitta carolinensis ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: SITTIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A common feeder bird with clean black, gray, and white markings, White-breasted Nuthatches are active, agile little birds with an appetite for insects and large, meaty seeds. They get their common name 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. White-breasted Nuthatches may be small but their voices are loud, and often their insistent nasal yammering will lead you right to them.

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Songs

Male White-breasted Nuthatches sing in late winter and spring, a rapid, nasal, fairly low-pitched wha-wha-wha that lasts 2-3 seconds. It’s made up of a half-dozen to a dozen nearly identical notes. Males sing these songs at two rates, with the faster version packing in twice as many notes in the same amount of time. The fast version is thought to be the main one used for mate attraction.

Calls

  • Song, call
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  • Eastern call
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  • Pacific call
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  • Rapid, chattering call
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  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The White-breasted Nuthatch’s most common call is a loud, nasal yank often repeated a few times in a row. Both sexes make this call, and it often has a more trembling, almost bleating quality, than either the bird’s song or the Red-breasted Nuthatch’s call. When looking for food, males and females exchange a soft yink.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

White-breasted Nuthatches are common feeder birds. You can attract them by offering large nuts such as sunflower and peanuts, and by putting out suet.

Find This Bird

Look for White-breasted Nuthatches along the main branches of large deciduous trees. They’ll likely be moving quickly at odd angles to the vertical. In winter you can find them in small flocks of chickadees and titmice; if you see one in a flock keep your eyes out, as there’s a good chance the bird’s mate is in the flock as well.

Get Involved

Keep track of the White-breasted Nuthatches at your feeder with Project FeederWatch

Free downloadable "Common Feeder Birds" poster from Project FeederWatch (PDF)

Check out our resources on attracting cavity-nesting birds and setting up a nest box. Then report any nesting activity to NestWatch

You Might Also Like

Risk Management for Chickadees, Living Bird, Autumn 2013

Explore sounds and video of White-breasted Nuthatches from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library archive

White-breasted Nuthatch from Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds (1948)