Red-breasted Nuthatch

Sitta canadensis

Summary 3

The Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) is a small songbird. The adult has blue-grey upperparts with cinnamon underparts, a white throat and face with a black stripe through the eyes, a straight grey bill and a black crown. Its call, which has been likened to a tin trumpet, is high-pitched and nasal. It breeds in coniferous forests across Canada, Alaska and the northeastern and western United States. Though often a permanent resident, it regularly irrupts further south...

Description 4

The red-breasted nuthatch is a small passerine, measuring 4.5 in (11 cm) in length, with a wingspan of 8.5 in (22 cm) and a weight of 9.9 g (0.35 oz). Its back and uppertail are bluish, and its underparts rust-colored. It has a black cap and eye line and a white supercilium (eyebrow). Sexes are similarly plumaged, though females and youngsters have duller heads and paler underparts.

Breeding 4

The red-breasted nuthatch, like all nuthatches, is monogamous. The male courts the female with a peculiar display, lifting his head and tail while turning his back to her, drooping his wings, and swaying from side to side.

This bird excavates its own cavity nest, 1.53–37 m (5.0–121.4 ft) above ground (usually around 4.6 m (15 ft)). Excavation is by both sexes and takes one to eight weeks. The pair smears sap around the entrance hole, presumably to help deter predators. The nest is lined with grass, moss, shredded bark and rootlets. Nest building is by both sexes, but mostly by the female.

The female lays 2–8 eggs (usually 5–6), which are white, creamy or pinkish, and covered with reddish-brown speckles. The eggs measure 0.6–0.7 in (1.5–1.8 cm) long by 0.4–0.5 in (1.0–1.3 cm) wide. Incubation is by the female and lasts 12–13 days. The young are altricial and stay in the nest for 2–3 weeks, brooded by the female but fed by both sexes. Normally there is only one brood per year. Lifespan is around 6 years.

Feeding behavior and diet 4

Like all nuthatches, the red-breasted nuthatch is an acrobatic species, hitching itself up and down tree trunks and branches to look for food. It goes headfirst when climbing down. It can "walk" on the underside of branches. Unlike woodpeckers and creepers, it does not use its tail as a prop while climbing. It tends to forage singly or in pairs.

The red-breasted nuthatch's diet changes depending on the season. In the summer, it eats mostly insects, occasionally even flycatching, while in the winter, it switches to conifer seeds. At feeders it will take sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and suet. It often wedges food pieces in bark crevices in order to break them up with the bill (as opposed to holding the food in their feet, like the black-capped chickadee does).

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Per Verdonk, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://www.flickr.com/photos/7551546@N08/2101493177
  2. (c) Thomas Quine, some rights reserved (CC BY), https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinet/7731200138/
  3. Adapted by carmacks_bioblitz from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitta_canadensis
  4. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-breasted_nuthatch

More Info

Range Map

iNatCA Map

Animal Bird
Color black, grey, orange
Bird Sittidae (nuthatches)