Common Name

Scientific Name

View Utah Distribution Map

Photo by Jim Parrish
Photo Copyright Jim Parrish

The red-breasted nuthatch, Sitta canadensis, is a permanent resident of coniferous forests in sub-arctic Canada, the northeastern United States, the Pacific Northwest, the Great Basin, and parts of the American Southwest. In Utah, it is an uncommon permanent resident of coniferous forests in mountains throughout the state. During the winter, individuals tend to descend to lower elevations.

The diet of the red-breasted nuthatch consists of insects and seeds. Individuals are able to crack open seeds by inserting them into crevices in tree bark and then hacking them open with their strong bills.

Males engage in a courtship display involving feeding, dancing, and even singing. Pairs are monogamous, and may remain together on the same territory throughout the year if food resources are adequate. Pairs prefer to nest in cavities, such as rotten branches or stumps; both parents select the nesting site. They build a soft nest in the cavity using grass and shredded bark. The female incubates her clutch of five to eight eggs for about twelve days. The young are born naked and blind, and both parents care for the young. The chicks leave the nest after about three weeks.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • National Geographic Society. 1996. Field guide to the birds of North America, 2nd edition. The National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C.

  • Peterson, R. T. 1966. A field guide to western birds, second edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.