Red-breasted Nuthatch

Sitta canadensis
Red-breasted Nuthatch specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small (4 ½ inches) nuthatch, the male Red-breasted Nuthatch is most easily identified by its gray body, red breast, and black head with conspicuous white eye-stripes. Female Red-breasted Nuthatches are similar to males, but are duller and paler on the head and breast. This species may be separated from the similarly-sized Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla) by that species’ brown head and white breast. The Red-breasted Nuthatch mainly occurs across southern Alaska and south-central Canada. This species’ range extends southward at higher elevations into the United States as far south as southern Arizona in the west and North Carolina in the east. The Red-breasted Nuthatch is mostly non-migratory, although small numbers may move south of this species’ main range in winters when food is scarce further north. Red-breasted Nuthatches primarily inhabit northern and high-mountain evergreen forests. At the southern end of this species’ range, particularly in the east, this species may also be found in mixed evergreen-deciduous woodland. Red-breasted Nuthatches mainly eat cone seeds, although small insects play a fairly large role in this species’ diet during the warmer months. In appropriate habitat, Red-breasted Nuthatches may be seen climbing headfirst up or down tree trunks while foraging for food. More often, it is this species’ tooting “ank” calls which alert birdwatchers to its presence. Red-breasted Nuthatches are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Winter visitor from late September to early May. Usually found in coniferous forests. The sexes are alike.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC70211 Sitta canadensis (Red-breasted Nuthatch)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC70210 Sitta canadensis (Red-breasted Nuthatch)

Sitta canadensis