Skip to Content

Birds Commonly Seen on Sides of Trees

Brown-headed Nuthatch

We often associate birds that are seen on the sides of the trees with woodpeckers, but this isn’t always the case!

Keep reading to find out which species like to climb the trees to find insects to munch on.


Woodpeckers – Family Picidae

Almost all woodpeckers are year-round residents in their territories, so as you get to know the woodpeckers in your neighborhood and yard, you can enjoy them throughout the year.

Woodpeckers offer an endlessly fascinating study in bird behavior and style. The more you watch, the more engaging they become. Part of it is anatomy. Their broad wings, stiff tail feathers, and unusual toe arrangement are ideally combined for maneuvering quickly through your trees and bushes, screeching to a halt, and grabbing onto the bark with their feet in a perfect, amazing vertical landing.

Then, using their tail for counterbalance, they almost rappel down your tree, tail first, until they reach their goal.

acorn woodpecker

Acorn Woodpeckers have a distinctive appearance. The are famous for caching acorns in holes in trees.

red-bellied woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker has been expanding its winter range northward. Sometimes confused with the Red-headed Woodpecker

red-headed woorpecker

Populations of the Red-headed Woodpecker have fallen dramatically.

downy woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is our smallest woodpecker. It often appears at feeders. Compare with the very similar, but larger Hairy Woodpecker.

northern flicker

The Northern Flicker is easily identified in flight by its white rump. 


Creepers – Family Certhiidae

brown creeper

The Brown Creeper is often observed spiraling up the side of a tree. When it reaches a certain height, it will fly to the base of another tree and repeat its upward path.

Very widely distributed across the U.S. in winter, the Brown Creeper is nonetheless inconspicuous because of it solitary nature and streaked brown plumage that blends well with the tree trunks it inhabits. Brown Creepers forage relatively low on tree trunks, where the bark has the deepest crevices in which to find insects and their larvae.

Large, dead trees are important to Brown Creepers, because they build their nests behind large, loose flaps of bark that are peeling away from a dead or dying tree. When approaching a nest, the adults fly to the base of the tree and climb the trunk rather than flying directly to the nest.


Nuthatches – Family Sittidae

white-breasted nuthatch

The White-breasted Nuthatch is often observed walking down a tree trunk, in an upside-down posture.

The White-breasted Nuthatch is blue-gray on the upperparts, with a darker cap, a white face, throat, and underparts, and rusty-orange undertail coverts. Its bill is long and pointed, and its tail is short and square.

Males have a black cap and nape.  Length: 6 in.  Wingspan: 11 in.

red-breasted nuthatch

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is an irruptive species. Its winter range will expand and contract from year to year, based on available food supplies.

Like other nuthatches, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is a cavity nester, and the male and female that make up a pair roost together at night in their cavity during the breeding season. They also apply sticky pine resin around the entrance to the cavity, perhaps to discourage predators.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

Let others know your thoughts or ask an expert

Would you like to get new articles of birds (Once a month?)

No SPAM! We might only send you fresh updates once a month

Thank you for subscribing!

No thanks! I prefer to follow BirdZilla on Facebook