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Description of the White-breasted Nuthatch


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.

white-breasted nuthatch


white breasted nuthatch aw
Photograph © Alan Wilson.


Females have a paler blackish cap and nape.

Seasonal change in appearance



Juveniles are similar to adults.


White-breasted Nuthatches are found primarily in deciduous woodlands, as well as towns or parks where mature trees are present.


White-breasted Nuthatches eat insects and seeds.


White-breasted Nuthatches  forage on tree trunks and on larger limbs.


White-breasted Nuthatches occur throughout much of the U.S., southern Canada, and Mexico. Their population has increased in recent decades.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the White-breasted Nuthatch.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

White-breasted Nuthatches often place a hard seed or nut in a bark crevice and then hammer it with their bill to crack or open it.

White-breasted Nuthatches have strong legs and feet, and are able to climb down as well as up a tree trunk.


A variety of loud, harsh calls are given, including a "schreeep" or a fast "enk enk enk".


Nuthatches with visit feeders for sunflower and suet.


The nest is a cup of twigs, grass, and bark fibers and is placed in a natural cavity or old woodpecker hole.

Number: Usually lay 5-9 eggs.
Color: White with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 12-14 days, and leave the nest in another 26 days, though they continue to associate with the adults for some time.