Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Jim Weis
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The white-breasted nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis, maintains permanent year-round territories in wooded habitat throughout southern Canada, much of the United States, and central Mexico. It is a permanent widespread resident of riparian woodlands, coniferous forests, and pinyon-juniper forests in eastern and southern montane areas of Utah.

White-breasted nuthatches glean insects and spiders directly off of tree bark, or less frequently will forage in leaf litter for food. In addition, they consume seeds and nuts, especially during the winter. Nuthatches engage in a behavior for which they are aptly named; the nuthatch pushes a large seed into a tree bark crevice and then uses its bill to hack open the seed. During the fall and winter, pairs cache a large amount of food throughout their territory. They store only one item in each cache site.

The male presents the female with food and then engages in a courtship display. The pair forms a long-term monogamous bond and establishes a permanent territory. The pair selects a natural cavity or an old woodpecker hole in which to build its nest. The female lines the cavity with soft material, such as bark shreds, hair, and feathers. She then incubates her clutch of five to eight eggs for about twelve days, and the male enters the cavity only to feed her. Both parents feed the hatchlings, but the female generally remains in the nest with the young while the male brings the majority of the food. The young leave the nest after about a month, but they remain with their parents for several weeks before dispersing. Most young will pair up, establish territories of their own, and then breed the following year.


  • Hayward, C. L., Cottam, C., Woodbury, A. M., and H. H. Frost. 1976. Birds of Utah. In Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs, No. 1 (Wood, S. L. and K. T. Harper, eds.). Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

  • 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.

  • Pravoscudov, V. V., and T. C. Grubb, Jr. 1993. White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis). Birds of North America 54.