Birdhouses 101 - Red Breasted Nuthatch



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Red Breasted Nuthatch

About The Red Breasted Nuthatch

Red Breasted NuthatchThe Red breasted nuthatch, Sitta canadensis, is one of the most common residents of diverse stands of evergreen forests. It can also be seen in some suburban habitat with sufficient conifers. It breeds from southeastern Alaska, south to North Carolina, northern Michigan and southern California. It goes beyond its breeding range during winter when food is scarce. It’s a happy, jolly little bird, surprisingly quick and agile in motions. It is characterized by its short legs, flat body, and large head. It used to climb downwards due to its enlarged hind toe and stubby tail. Its strong, long bill is slightly upturned. It is unique from other nuthatches by its prominent white-striped eyebrow with black stripe through the eye. It measures 4-5” long and has light rusty red underside that describes its name. Its pointed long wings extend to the tip of the short tail when folded.

The Red Breasted Nuthatch Nesting Preferences

This nuthatch generally excavates a cavity in a rotten branch or stump of a dead tree and occasionally builds grass nests in a natural or abandoned woodpecker cavities or birdhouses. Usually, excavation lasts from 3-9 days. It constantly smears pitch or resin around the nest-hole throughout the nesting season. The sticky substance applied, serves as protection from predators, for insulation and to lessen the danger of nest breakage at cavity height. Their nests can be about 5-100 feet above the ground. Despite the sticky covering, these birds are able to fly in and out of their nests without being affected. They can raise only one brood of young per season.

Building a Birdhouse For The Red Breasted Nuthatch

Red Breasted NuthatchA properly constructed nest box made up of Red Cedar is recommended for birds of this size. Roughly cut wood stocks allow them to properly grip interior and exterior surfaces. Flooring is 4” by 4” inside, with dimensions of 9” from floor to ceiling, 1 ¼” diameter entrance hole formed at about 7” from the floor to the top of the hole. Openings on the floor and under the roof provide proper ventilation. Finished birdhouse should be mounted on a tree, post, fence or wall between 4 and 12 feet high with partial sun and shade.

The Red Breasted Nuthatch Mating Habits

Red Breasted NuthatchRed breasted nuthatches are monogamous and usually mate in spring. Mating is initiated by the female. The female flies toward a male and aggressively points her bill from side to side rhythmically as it flaps her wings gracefully up and down. When the female catches his attention, the male then feeds his mate as he pivots slowly from side to side, Afterwards, the female answers a soft “tetetete” while pointing her bill toward the male with shivering wings.

The Red Breasted Nuthatch Feeding Preferences

The Red breasted nuthatch feeds on insects and conifer seeds. Usually, they forage on trunks of dead conifers but in some cases, they “flycatch: flying insects. They are able store nuts in cracks of barks so they can eat it in the future. This habit helps them survive shortages in mid-winter. Nuthatches feed with chickadees and titmice and are very competitive at feeding trays.

Interesting Red Breasted Nuthatch Facts

It usually mingles with chickadees and kinglets in fall and winter. Each member incessantly gives its call to enable strays and laggards keep in touch with the roving band. Its call in particular sounds like “ank-ank-ank”.

Readers Comments


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Lynn Castner  4/5/2007)
Few sites report appearance and nesting of Red Breasted Nuthatches in South Carolina. We have a nesting pair on a marsh just off Hilton Head Island, SC. The pair used the pitch to seal the hole with nesting material. Most reports on pitch spreading state the behaviour is unknown. Our pair sealed the hold with nesting material and we are in day 3 of incubation.Lynn Castner and Deonne Parkerlynncastner@hargray.comThanks


shirley nicolson  1/13/2008)
Currently one pair of nuthatches are displaying mating behavior and frequently entering a birdhouse on the side of a large cedar tree Jan 13 05 on Gabriola Island BC


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