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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Cavity Makers

White-breasted Nuthatches, SSitta carolinensis

White-breasted nuthatches on a tree trunk in a wintery forest

White-breasted Nuthatches are small songbirds that breed in deciduous and mixed forests across North America from March to June.

They are commonly found in mature forests with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees, where insects are abundant during the breeding season. They are known for their distinctive “yank-yank” calls.

White-breasted Nuthatches forage in trees and on tree trunks for insects and insect eggs, including beetles, caterpillars, ants, and spiders. They also consume seeds and nuts, such as acorns and sunflower seeds.

White-breasted Nuthatches are agile climbers, using their strong bills to pry insects from bark and crevices. They can move headfirst down tree trunks.

Courtship involves males performing elaborate displays, including wing flicking and vocalizations, to attract females.

Both females and males may excavate cavities or claim natural or abandoned cavities in dead or decaying trees, typically at heights ranging from 2 to 30 meters above the ground. Nests within the cavities are made with bark strips, grasses, feathers, and fur.

White-breasted Nuthatches may use bird houses with entrance holes of about 1.25 inches in diameter, although they prefer natural cavities. Bird houses should be mounted on trees in deciduous or mixed forests. See White-breasted Nuthatch Birdhouse Plans.

Egg laying occurs from April to May, with females laying 5 to 9 white eggs with brown speckles. Incubation lasts about 12 to 14 days, primarily by the female, while the male brings food to the nest.

Chicks hatch blind and naked, requiring constant care and feeding by both parents. Their diet initially consists of insects and small seeds brought by the adults.

Chicks learn to forage and hunt under adult guidance, developing skills in extracting insects from bark and searching for food on branches.

White-breasted Nuthatches are non-migratory birds, staying in their breeding areas year-round. They may join mixed-species flocks in winter and visit bird feeders for seeds and nuts.