The 4 Foods Nuthatches Love to Eat

Updated: Nov. 29, 2023

What do nuthatches eat? Attract acrobatic nuthatches to your yard by offering a buffet of their favorite foods and seeds in bird feeders.

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brown headed nuthatchCourtesy Steve Shattles
Brown-headed nuthatch in South Carolina

What Do Nuthatches Eat?

The most common backyard nuthatches are white-breasted nuthatches and red-breasted nuthatches. Other North American nuthatches can be found in specialized habitats—brown-headed nuthatches live in the Deep South and pygmy nuthatches in western forests. If you want to attract nuthatches, you have probably asked what do nuthatches eat?

Insects are the main food source for nuthatches. The birds search bark and crevices for hidden treats like beetles, spiders, ants and caterpillars as they dance around tree trunks. Nuthatches will also visit backyard feeders, especially if you have a yard full of trees they can use for foraging and shelter. Stock your feeders with their favorite foods, and you’ll be on your way to attracting nuthatches.

Fascinating fact: Not only do nuthatches search crevices for food, they also hide food in them. They will stuff seeds or insects in holes in trees and cleverly cover their hiding spots with lichens, moss or pieces of bark. The nuthatches will return to this hidden food and use it as nourishment to get through winter.


Red-breasted nuthatches love to eat suet

Whether you make your own suet or buy it, a suet block in a cage-like feeder is sure to attract nuthatches. In the winter months, when conifer seeds are sometimes scarce, red-breasted nuthatches will travel in search of food and will likely stop at feeders for a suet snack. Add peanut butter to your DIY suet mixture and white-breasted nuthatches will love it even more!

Check out the best suet feeders for winter birds.

Sunflower Seeds

4 Foods to Attract Nuthatches to Your Yard | Birding | Birds & Blooms MagazineCourtesy JOHN PIZNIUR
White-breasted nuthatch eating sunflower seeds

Any form of sunflower seed will attract desirable birds, but when it comes to feeding nuthatches, serving up black oil sunflower seeds is a slam dunk. Because bully birds also seek out black oil sunflower seeds, a tube feeder with small perches is best.

Check out the 10 types of bird feeders you need in your backyard.


4 Foods to Attract Nuthatches to Your Yard | Birding | Birds & Blooms MagazineJOHN VAN DECKER/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
Nuthatches are caching birds. They might take seeds from feeders, hide them in trees and go back to eat them later.

If you don’t have a peanut feeder yet, get your hands on one for this upcoming cold season. Here’s how to make a DIY bird feeder for peanuts. Red and white-breasted nuthatches will entertain you for hours scurrying up, down and around a peanut feeder. Their favorite food to eat? Out of the shell, unsalted peanuts.

Here’s how to attract more birds by feeding peanuts.

Live Mealworms

Courtesy Robin Edwards
Red-breasted nuthatch

More species than just bluebirds enjoy a mealworm snack. A large portion of the nuthatch diet is insects, so putting out mealworms for them is definitely worth a shot. They don’t require anything fancy; just toss some mealworms in a shallow tray or platform feeder and cross your fingers. Check out our guide to feeding mealworms to birds.