Station 6
White Breasted Nuthatch


Physical Traits

The largest nuthatch, this is still a small bird with a large head and almost no neck. The tail is very short, and the long, narrow bill is straight or slightly upturned. White-breasted Nuthatches are gray-blue on the back, with a frosty white face and underparts. The black or gray cap and neck frame the face and make it look like this bird is wearing a hood. The lower belly and under the tail are often chestnut.

Habitat

White-breasted Nuthatches are birds of mature woods, and they’re more often found in deciduous than coniferous forests (where Red-breasted Nuthatches are more likely). You can also find them at woodland edges and in open areas with large trees, such as parks, wooded suburbs, and yards.

Diet

White-breasted Nuthatches eat mainly insects, including weevil larvae, wood-boring beetle larvae, other beetles, tree hoppers, scale insects, ants, gall fly larvae, caterpillars (including gypsy moths and tent caterpillars), stinkbugs, and click beetles, as well as spiders. They also eat seeds and nuts, including acorns, hawthorn, sunflower seeds, and sometimes crops such as corn. At bird feeders they eat sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, and peanut butter.

Behavior

White-breasted Nuthatches forage up, down, and sideways over tree trunks and around large branches. They often (though not always) start high in trees and move down them head first, pausing to crane their necks up and back, toward the horizontal, for a look around. They probe into bark crevices or chip away at wood to find food. When they find large nuts and seeds, they jam them into the bark and hammer them open. White-breasted Nuthatches often store seeds and insects one at a time, and somewhat haphazardly, under loose bark on their territory. They typically hide the food by covering it with a piece of bark, lichen, moss, or snow. White-breasted Nuthatches live in pairs year round and chase other nuthatches from their territory. Agitated birds fan their tails, flick their wings, or raise the feathers of the back. A bird backing down from a confrontation typically raises its bill and tail, and droops its wings. In winter White-breasted Nuthatches join groups of chickadees, titmice, and woodpeckers to forage.

Nest Building Techniques

Females build the nest on their own, lining the nest cavity with fur, bark, and lumps of dirt. She then builds a nest cup of fine grass, shredded bark, feathers, and other soft material. White-breasted Nuthatches often reuse their nest holes in subsequent years. White-breasted Nuthatches typically build their nests in natural tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes. They sometimes enlarge these holes but rarely excavate them entirely on their own (as Red-breasted Nuthatches often do). Nuthatches are smaller than woodpeckers, and White-breasted Nuthatches don’t seem bothered by nest holes considerably larger than they are. Despite their association with deciduous woods, they nest in both coniferous and deciduous trees. White-breasted Nuthatches sometimes use nest boxes.

Migration and Range

Resident. Non-migratory. They defend a territory year-round which varies in size depending on if it is in a wooded (smaller) or non-wooded (larger) area. The territory is dominated by the male, but both sexes live together within the territory. Nuthatch pairs may leave their territory in winter when food becomes scarce. They often head for bird feeders or join flocks with chickadees
and titmice.

Cool Facts

In winter, White-breasted Nuthatches join foraging flocks led by chickadees or titmice, perhaps partly because it makes food easier to find and partly because more birds can keep an eye out for predators. One study found that when titmice were removed from a flock, nuthatches were more wary and less willing to visit exposed bird feeders.

If you see a White-breasted Nuthatch making lots of quick trips to and from your feeder, meaning too many for it to be eating them all, it may be storing the seeds for later in the winter, by wedging them into furrows in the bark of nearby trees.

Where is the Nuthatch?

Stand looking straight past the numbered station post,
look at the right side of the furthest back of the 4 small trees,
this tree is a Black Tupelo tree,
about 15 meters back and 2 meters up on the tree,
you will see the White Breasted Nuthatch replica.

Want a picture of where to look ??
Want to see the replica ??