White-breasted Nuthatch

Common Name: White-breasted Nuthatch

Class:  Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sittidae
Genus: Sitta
Species: Sitta carolinensis

photo Ivan Andrijevic


Of the two species of the Nuthatch family, Sittidae, found in Western New York, the Red-breasted Nuthatch and the White-breasted Nuthatch, the White-breasted is distinguished from the Red-breasted by its larger size, black crown, and bright white face and under parts. Although the White-breasted also has some rusty markings underneath it, the red is much more apparent in the Red-breasted.

photo Ivan Andrijevic


The White-breasted nuthatch is a year-round resident of generally mature deciduous woodland, but also mixed deciduous and coniferous forest; occasionally in residential areas. They favor woodland edges over more central locations, preferring open areas (water, roads, clearings, fields) near the nest.
Its diet consists of a variety of insects that collects from tree bark as well as seeds and nuts. During fall and winter, individuals regularly scatter hoard food; they disperse stores throughout their territory, using each storage site only once.


The White-breasted Nuthatch will cling to the sides of trees, often climbing downward head first, foraging for insects inside the bark. While foraging, they often chip away bark with beak to reveal food hidden in crevices. When individuals find a food item they often wedge it into a bark crevice and hammer with the bill to open or tear it apart.

White-breasted Nuthatches form monogamous pairs but it is the female only that constructs the nest. The nests are made in cavities within the trees, sometimes using old woodpecker holes. It is lined with fur, grasses, and pieces of bark.

Where to see them in WNY

White-breasted Nuthatches are year-round residents and are widespread throughout most of Western New York. They can be found in many local parks and cemeteries as well as Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

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