In Scope: Red-Breasted Nuthatch

red breasted nuthatch

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly and swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth in the open expanse of the heavens. ~ Genesis 1:20


 Welcome to another edition of In Scope!  This time I'm featuring one of the little birds that inhabit the woodlands of the Northwest year round ~ the Red-breasted Nuthatch.

    You may have been introduced to this tiny bird for the first time when you heard it's distinct voice echoing through the woods while you were on a nature hike.  Perhaps you've even seen this nuthatch come to your suet or mealworm feeder for a bite to eat.   In Scope this month, we'll take an in depth look at the Red-breasted Nuthatch and get to know this familiar woodland friend a little bit better.


Interesting Facts


    Did you know....

  • The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a friendly bird that can be easily tamed and trained to sit on a person's hand for a handful of chopped nuts or other delightful treat.

  • Unlike other tree-clinging birds such as woodpeckers and flickers, who climb up and down trees with their head always up, nuthatches can go down a tree head first (up-side down) or sideways.  These nimble birds also travel through the trees right side up !

  • The Red-breasted Nuthatch smears pitch on the entrance to their nest, most likely to help guard the nest against predators.  They may apply the pitch directly from their beak or from a piece of bark used as a tool to apply the pitch.  The female usually smears the pitch on the inside of the hole while the male applies it on the outside.

  • Red-breasted Nuthatches store up food for later use in the crevaces of trees and other secret caches.

  • Red-breasted Nuthatches sometimes take nest material from the nests of other birds to use in their own nest.

  • Since much of the Red-breasted Nuthatch's diet consists of insects, this species thrives during invasions of Spruce Budworm, a forest pestilence.

Gardening For and Feeding Nuthatches


red breasted nuthatch


    Since Red-breasted Nuthatches are primarly insect, seed and nut eaters, we'll focus on these types of food sources for attracting nuthatches to your yard.



    Even though nuthatches primarly live in woodland areas, they do appreciate a backyard habitat filled with trees and other plants.  Here's a list of some nuthatch friendly plants:

Conifers (many types including Spruce ~ especially White and Norway Spruce, Firs, Cedars and Pine ~ especially Red Pine)

American Beech


Fragrant Thimbleberry


    I've had great success attracting nutchatches to oour yard with these feeder foods:


Peanut Butter

Mealworms (Dried ones ~ I've never been brave enough to try feeding live ones ~ eeewww !  The live ones are supposed to be even better for attracting birds, but in my experience, even the dried ones were nuthatch magnets!)

Nuts (Peanuts, pecans, etc.  Pine nuts are also supposed to be really good for attracting them although I've never tried offering them myself.  Since conifer seeds are a major part of their wild diet, I imagine that these nuts would attract them to a feeder very well.)

Corn, whole or cracked

Seeds (especially milo and sunflower seeds)



Zoom In: Species Profile


     The Red-breasted Nuthatch's scientific name is Sitta canadensis.  It is a small bird about 4 1/2 to 4 3/4 inches long.  The male and female of the species differ slightly in appearance from one another.  Both have slate-gray upperparts, a rusty colored chest and belly and white edges on the sides of their stubby tail.  The male has a black crown and eye-line with a white 'eyebrow'.  The female looks much the same, but her crown is gray instead of black.

    The voice of the Red-breasted Nuthatch is a harsh 'yank, yank, yank'.

     The habitat of the Red-breasted Nuthatch is primarly coniferous forests and woodlands here in the Western United States.  Over the winter and during migration, they make good use of other habitats across the country including deciduous woodlands, backyard habitats and gardens full of trees and ample food supplies.

     The diet of the Red-breasted Nuthatch is mostly insects in the summer season, but seeds (especially conifer seeds), nuts, and acorns also make up an important part of their diet, especially in the winter.  They also eat insects and other food that they have stored in caches for the winter.

    The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a cavity nester.  Their nest is build with sticks inside a tree cavity and sometimes a nestbox and lined with grass and other soft materials.  The female lays 5 - 6 white eggs with rusty colored speckles.

     The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a year round resident across much of the Western United States including Southeastern Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Northern California, Idaho, Western Montana, Western Wyoming, Colorado, parts of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, also much of Canada and parts of the Northeastern United States.  They are winter residents throughout much of the United States.

red breasted nuthatch



    This month I've created a Red-breasted Nuthatch coloring page for you in a free PDF.  Simply click here to download, then print and enjoy !




      Psalm 96:12 - 13 Amplified says,

    "Let the field be exultant, and all that is in it !  Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy !  Before the Lord, for He comes, for He comes to judge and govern the earth !  He shall judge the world with righteousness and justice and the peoples with His faithfullness and truth."

    When I think of the trees of the wood singing for joy, I always think of the beautiful music of the wind rustling through the tree branches and also the birds singing from inside the beautiful green foliage.  Just think, all of the earth praises God, even the little Red-breasted Nuthatch with its distinctive call.  I often think of what joy must be brought to our Father's heart when He hears the birds singing out their praise to Him, and especially when we sing our own songs in worship of Him.

    May we make it a habit this year and always, to praise the Lord and be grateful to Him.  May we sing of His righteousness and His goodness.  Thank you for joining me for this winter edition of In Scope.  Always remember to praise The Lord !

    By, Jessi Wasell