Fun Facts About Nuthatches
Learn more about nuthatches, one of North America’s most fascinating birds.
- The name Nuthatch probably results from the corruption of the word “nuthack” which refers to its habit of hacking away at a seed with its beak until the seed opens.
- White-breasted Nuthatches will often store seeds for retrieval later in the same day or as a quick source of food for the next morning.
- The White-breasted Nuthatch is a common bird of deciduous forests and wooded urban areas. Known as the “upside down” bird, it is often observed creeping headfirst down tree trunks while searching cracks and crevices for insect food.
- A nuthatch’s foot has one big toe (the hallux) that faces backward, while its other three toes face forward. It is able to walk head first down the trunks of trees by moving only one foot at a time while the hallux toe on the other foot holds firmly to the bark.
- Nuthatches are monogamous and defend a territory throughout the year. The female White-breasted Nuthatch rarely strays far from her mate and stays in constant vocal contact when they are more than a few yards apart.
- The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a very aggressive defender of its nesting cavity, especially during the building period. It chases away much larger birds such as the Downy Woodpecker and has been observed bullying the very aggressive House Wren.
- Pygmy Nuthatches have never been observed to roost alone. They will always roost at night in a communal group which may contain up to 100 birds. This tightly packed mass of birds can warm the roosting cavity by 40° F or more over the outside temperature.
- A Pygmy Nuthatch’s diet switches from eating mostly insects and spiders in the summer to primarily eating seeds in the winter. It visits feeders where its favorite foods are sunflower seeds and suet.
- Pygmy Nuthatches can stay in their roost cavity for as long as 40 hours without feeding, enabling them to survive short periods of very severe winter weather.
- Brown-headed Nuthatches prefer to reside in open, mature, old growth pine forests, especially in stands that have been recently burned.
- The Brown-headed Nuthatch is one of the few birds known to use a “tool” to find food. It will take a loose flake of pine bark in its bill and use it to pry up other scales of bark in search of prey.
For more information about nuthatches, visit rightbird.com - our online bird guide.