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White-breasted Nuthatch


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.


  • Eastern song
  • Pacific song
  • Song
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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.


  • Song, call
  • Eastern call
  • Pacific call
  • Rapid, chattering call
  • 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 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 All About Birdhouses. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size for White-breasted Nuthatch.

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.

Bird-friendly Winter Gardens, Birdsleuth, 2016.

You Might Also Like

White-breasted Nuthatch from Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds, 1948.

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

Risk Management for Chickadees, Living Bird, Autumn 2013

Like Chasing Tornadoes: The Fun And Challenge Of Mixed Species Flocks, Living Bird, Autumn 2014.

Coping with Cold: A Bird’s Strategy, Project Feederwatch, January 22, 2015.

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

Power Struggles Are Playing Out At Your Feeder—Here’s What To Look For, All About Birds, March 11, 2015.

Where Is That Bird Going With That Seed? It’s Caching Food For Later, All About Birds, April 13, 2016.

Look out! The Backyard Bird Alarm Call Network, Living Bird, Winter 2016.



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