The White-breasted Nutchatch (Sitta carolinensis) is a year-round resident over much of North America from southwestern Canada to the highlands of southern Mexico. This bird is a familiar visitor to bird feeders supplying suet or sunflower seeds, which it may fly off with to hide in crevices. The nasal calls of the White-breasted Nuthatch are a familiar sound throughout much of North America. White-breasted Nuthatches are typically found in deciduous and mixed forest, the Red-breasted Nutchatch (Sitta candensis) being more associated with conifer forests. White-breasted Nutchatches feed mainly on insects, but also take seeds (proportion of seeds in the diet may range from none in summer to more than 60% in winter). Young are fed entirely on insects and spiders. White-breasted Nuthatches forage mainly on trunks and larger limbs of trees and are often seen moving head-down down a tree trunk. During fall and winter, these nuthatches often cache food in bark crevices on their territory.
Pairs remain together on the nesting territory year-round and may mate for life. In his courtship display, which may be seen beginning in late winter, the male raises his head, spreads his tail, droops his wings, sways back and forth, and bows deeply. The male also performs much courtship feeding of the female.
White-breasted Nuthatches usually nest in large natural cavities or old woodpecker cavities, typically around 5 to 20 m above the ground. The nest, built by the female, is a simple cup of bark fibers, grasses, twigs, and hair. The usual clutch size is 5 to 9 eggs. The eggs, which are white with reddish brown spots, are incubated for 12 to 14 days by the female, who is fed on the nest by her mate. Young are fed by both parents.
Differences in vocalizations, morphology, and ecology among Pacific coast, interior montane, and eastern populations may indicate three or four distinct species (see Spellman and Klicka 2007; Walstrom et al. 2012).
(Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998; Spellman and Klicka 2007; Walstrom et al. 2012)
- American Ornithologists' Union. 1998. Check-list of North American Birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
- Kaufman, K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin, Boston
- Spellman, G.M. and J. Klicka. 2007. Phylogeography of the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis): diversification in North American pine and oak woodlands. Molecular Ecology 16:1729-1740.
- Walstrom, V.W., J. Klicka, and G.M. Spellman. 2012. Speciation in the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis): a multilocus perspective. Molecular Ecology 21: 907-920.
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