Living Bird Magazine
Red-breasted NuthatchSitta canadensis
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Sittidae
An intense bundle of energy at your feeder, Red-breasted Nuthatches are tiny, active birds of north woods and western mountains. These long-billed, short-tailed songbirds travel through tree canopies with chickadees, kinglets, and woodpeckers but stick to tree trunks and branches, where they search bark furrows for hidden insects. Their excitable yank-yank calls sound like tiny tin horns being honked in the treetops.More ID Info
Find This Bird
You can find Red-breasted Nuthatches by listening for their nasal, yammering call or for the sounds of a foraging flock of chickadees and other birds: nuthatches are often in attendance. Look along trunks and branches of trees for a bird wandering up, down, and sideways over the bark, and keep your eyes peeled for the Red-breasted Nuthatch’s bold black-and-white face pattern.
- Trepador Canadiense (Spanish)
- Sittelle à poitrine rousse (French)
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 including plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.
- Cool Facts
- The Red-breasted Nuthatch collects resin globules from coniferous trees and plasters them around the entrance of its nest hole. It may carry the resin in its bill or on pieces of bark that it uses as an applicator. The male puts the resin primarily around the outside of the hole while the female puts it around the inside. The resin may help to keep out predators or competitors. The nuthatch avoids the resin by diving directly through the hole.
- During nest building, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is aggressive, chasing away other hole-nesting birds such as the House Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Downy Woodpecker. A particularly feisty nuthatch may go after Yellow-rumped Warblers, House Finches, Violet-Green Swallows, and Cordilleran Flycatchers.
- Red-breasted Nuthatches migrate southward earlier than many irruptive species. They may begin in early July and may reach their southernmost point by September or October.
- Red-breasted Nuthatches sometimes steal nest-lining material from the nests of other birds, including Pygmy Nuthatches and Mountain Chickadees.
- The oldest known Red-breasted Nuthatch was 7 years, 6 months old.