White Breasted Nuthatch: The Upside Down Bird

The white breasted nuthatch is adept at clambering up, down or around the trunks and limbs of trees.

What Does a White Breasted Nuthatch Look Like?

black and white birds, nuthatchCourtesy Sarah Gibson

White breasted nuthatches are common throughout the United States. You’ll see them circling tree trunks, moving up, down and around as they probe the bark for their next meal. A white breasted nuthatch has a short tail, bluish-gray back and wings, black cap and white breast. They measure 5-1/2 inches with a wingspan of 11 inches. The male has a slightly darker black cap than the female.

Whenever you see a bird going headfirst down a tree trunk, it’s probably a nuthatch. Extremely fun to watch, they are among the most acrobatic bird species.

What Do White Breasted Nuthatches Eat?

pine cone bird feederCourtesy Debbie Kaiman Tillinghast
White breasted nuthatch

Their diet consists of insects, tree seeds, berries and nuts. In winter, white breasted nuthatches trade insects for seeds, like acorns and pine nuts. Backyard feeder favorites include sunflower seeds, peanut butter, birdseed mixes, peanuts and suet. Nuthatches rely on a caching system to make it through the cold months, so keeping feeders full of seeds and nuts helps them thrive. When visiting bird feeders, a nuthatch may carry away dozens of seeds, one by one, to hide them in crevices of tree bark.

Watch your fall feeders for a bed breasted nuthatch.

Nest and Eggs

White-Breasted Nuthatch at nest holeHal Beral/Getty Images
White breasted nuthatch at nest hole in Madera Canyon, Arizona

The female uses hair, fur and shredded bark to build a nest in a cavity. She lays 5 to 10 white eggs with reddish brown markings. White breasted nuthatches sometimes use nest boxes, so you may get lucky and have a nesting pair in your backyard. Although they’re small birds, they don’t seem to mind nesting in larger cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes.

nuthatches on a nest boxCourtesy Ann Morrow / Country magazine
White breasted nuthatches on a nest box

White Breasted Nuthatch Call

Listen to the white breasted nuthatch’s song. You’ll hear a nasal “yank-yank-yank” call.

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Head south to see a brown headed nuthatch.

Range Map and Habitat

white breasted nuthatchCourtesy Rebecca Granger

Look for this species in areas with plentiful trees. Learn where to spot them throughout the year.

White-breasted Nuthatch Bird Species

Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

Next, learn how to tell the difference between a nuthatch vs a chickadee.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.