The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a small songbird found throughout much of North America. It is gray-blue on top with a white belly and distinctive black eye stripe. The difference between a Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatch is the color of the chest and the size of the bird.
The Red-breasted Nuthatch has the rusty colored chest and is a bit smaller than the White-breasted. The Red-breasted Nuthatch is often a bit more vocal and has a distinctive, sharply pointed and slightly upturned bill. Red-breasted Nuthatches are often seen clambering up and down tree trunks and branches in search of food. Red-breasted Nuthatches are quite vocal and have a variety of calls and songs. The most common call is a loud, nasal “yank”. They may also give a softer “tsip” or “tsit”, which is often given in flight. The male’s song is a series of short, high-pitched notes.
The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a year-round resident in much of its range, but some birds migrate south for the winter. We see them year round in Northern Michigan but they are often seasonal in southern areas. They are social birds and can often be found in small flocks. They eat mostly insects, but will also eat seeds, nuts, and berries. They often hang upside down while foraging in tree bark.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are cavity nesters, meaning they nest in tree cavities or nest boxes. They nest in both coniferous and deciduous trees. They line their nests with soft materials such as fur, feathers, and moss. They also use spider webs to help build the nest. Red-breasted Nuthatches are a welcome sight in many backyards. They are a great source of entertainment as they hang upside down or cling to the side of a tree while foraging. Providing nesting boxes or suet can help attract these birds to your yard and provide them with a safe place to nest.