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Brown-headed Nuthatch


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

One of the few birds found almost exclusively in the United States, the Brown-headed Nuthatch is restricted to the pine forests of the southeastern states. A small but declining population is also found in the Bahamas.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
3.9–4.3 in
10–11 cm
6.3–7.1 in
16–18 cm
0.4 oz
10 g
Other Names
  • Sitelle à tête brune (French)
  • Sita del Pinar (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • Tool use in birds is rare, but the Brown-headed Nuthatch will use a piece of bark as a lever to pry up other bark to look for food. It may carry the bark tool from tree to tree, and may use it to cover a seed cache.
  • Nests of Brown-headed Nuthatches are regularly attended by extra birds, usually young males. Whether these helpers-at-the-nest are older offspring of the breeding pair is not yet known.
  • The Brown-headed Nuthatch may sleep in a tree cavity or in the open on pine branches. The female or the breeding pair roosts in the nest cavity before the eggs are laid and throughout the nestling period.
  • The Brown-headed Nuthatch often joins mixed species foraging flocks in winter. In these flocks the nuthatch appears to compete for food with the Pine Warbler, another pine specialist species. The two birds displace each other from the preferred foraging spots, with the nuthatch attacking the warbler just as frequently as the warbler attacks the nuthatch.
  • The oldest recorded Brown-headed Nuthatch was at least 5 years, 9 months old, when it was recaptured during banding operations in Alabama.



Pine forests, especially in open, mature forests with periodic fires.



Insects and pine seeds.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–9 eggs
Egg Description
White or buffy, with reddish brown spots evenly distributed over egg or concentrated as blotches at large end.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless and with some down.
Nest Description

Nests in holes in trees, usually dead trees. Will use nest box. Nest made primarily of pine seed wings, with bark shreds, Spanish moss, grass rootlets, fur, feathers, and other soft material.

Nest Placement



Bark Forager

Forages in pines, throughout the entire tree, but especially in upper third of trees. Gleans from foliage, probes in cracks and open pinecones, pries into crevices. Scales off loose bark, and may use flakes of bark as a tool to pry off bark. Takes seeds and other large food to hammering sites at the base of large limbs to peck seed open.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Brown-headed Nuthatch populations declined by about 24% between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.1 million, with 100% living in the U.S. They are a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species and rate a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. They are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Populations are declining due to habitat degradation. The population on Grand Bahama Island, which is possibly a distinct subspecies, is nearly gone, probably the result of logging.


Range Map Help

Brown-headed Nuthatch Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Backyard Tips

This species often comes to bird feeders. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

You Might Also Like

eBird Occurrence Maps, Brown-headed Nuthatch

Four Nuthatches, Four Ways to Make It Through a Cold Winter, All About Birds blog, February 27, 2015.



Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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