The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a busy, active bird that spends its waking hours in near perpetual motion. Despite their active, busy ways, for those who live near their habitat — conifer woodlands along much of the northern U.S. and the Rocky Mountain region — they’re pretty easy to find.
Where to find the Red-breasted Nuthatch
In the summer, the Red-breasted Nuthatch “hops” effortlessly up and down the trunks of conifer trees, probing its long, needle-like beak into crevices to grab beetles, caterpillars, spiders and ants. Each foot has one back-facing toe with a claw that helps them grab hold of the bark.
The nuthatch’s name is inspired by its method of cracking open seeds. Instead of crushing it with its beak, they’ll wedge it in a tree crevice and hammer away.
During the colder months, they live on conifer seeds. However, they’ll fly south for the winter if food supplies are low. If you live anywhere south of their habitat, you just may experience what is called an irruption of Red-breasted Nuthatches during the winter season.
The Red-breasted Nuthatch shares similarities with the more common White-breasted Nuthatch: Short tails, gray backs and a black cap. The key difference is the Red-breasted Nuthatch has a bold white eyebrow and rust-colored feathers on the breast and underparts. Females have dark brown caps instead of black and their rusty markings are much paler.
Like bluebirds and chickadees, nuthatches are cavity nesters. While preparing their nesting sites, they excavate their own holes and then they apply sticky resin globules from pine trees around the outside and inside of the hole. This sticky resin may be their defense against predators and competing bird species.
Red-breasted Nuthatch populations are in decline in the Pacific Northwest. Those who live in this region can help support them by installing a nesting box, especially in wooded areas that have a shortage of the dead trees they need to excavate nesting holes. A box with 1.25-inch entrance holes and 8-inch depth is best.
At the bird feeder, the Red-breasted Nuthatch prefers sunflower seeds and peanuts, which makes Lyric Chickadee Premium Sunflower & Nut Wild Bird Mix , with its blend of seeds and nuts, the perfect choice for them.