Fun Facts About Nuthatches

  • White-breasted Nuthatches favor mature deciduous forests while Red-breasted Nuthatches prefer a habitat with spruce and fir trees.
  • The White-breasted Nuthatch is known as the “upside down” bird, often observed creeping headfirst down tree trunks while searching cracks and crevices for insect food.
  • The White-breasted Nuthatch is a common visitor to bird feeders. They typically take a single sunflower seed and fly to a nearby tree, then wedge it into the bark and hack it open with repeated blows from their bill. They will often store seeds for retrieval later in the same day or as a quick source of food for the next morning.
  • White-breasted NuthatchIn a study of the White-breasted Nuthatch's seed caching behavior, it was found that they selected unshelled sunflower seeds approximately 25 percent more often than seeds in the shell. This preference is probably driven by the fact that it takes the Nuthatch about half the time to cache an unshelled seed than it does a shelled one.
  • Nuthatches are monogamous and defend a territory throughout the year. The female White-breasted Nuthatch rarely strays far from her mate and stays in constant vocal contact when they are more than a few yards apart.
  • Male White-breasted Nuthatches are less wary of danger when foraging with their mates than when they are alone. The female mate plays the dominate role as “watchdog” when they are together, leaving the male more time to concentrate on hunting for food.
  • During the winter, White-breasted Nuthatches will often forage together with other birds such as Titmice, Chickadees, and Downy Woodpeckers.  Since Nuthatches are able to recognize the alarm calls of these species, they can reduce their own level of alertness by relying on vigilance of these other species. This leaves them with more time to concentrate on finding food.
  • When natural food supplies are scarce in northern Canada, numerous species of birds will “irrupt” into a southern migration in search of food.  Red-breasted Nuthatches are typically the earliest species to head south for the winter, leaving as early as mid-summer and settling into their new southern winter territories by the end of September.
  • The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a very aggressive defender of its nesting cavity, especially during the building period. It chases away much larger birds such as the Downy Woodpecker and it has even been observed to bully the very aggressive House Wren.
  • The Red-breasted Nuthatch will line the entrance to its nesting cavity with drops of sticky conifer resin.  It is thought that this may be a tactic to discourage predators or nest competitors from entering the cavity. The nuthatches avoid the resin themselves by diving directly into the nesting cavity without ever touching the sides of the entry hole.
  • The longevity records for Nuthatches are: White-breasted – 9 years, 10 months; Red-breasted – 7.5 years.