White-Breasted Nuthatch

Sitta carolinensis
Family: 
Sittidae (nuthatches) in the order Passeriformes
Description: 

This bird’s habit of climbing upside down on tree trunks and branches easily marks it as a nuthatch. Adult upperparts are bluish gray, with a black forehead crown and nape, and white cheeks. Cap of female is gray. Adult underparts are white with buff flanks. Song is a rapid series of low-pitched nasal sounds: “whe-whe-whe-whe-whe.” The call is a nasal yank or “yank-yank” and is lower-pitched than the red-breasted nuthatch.

Similar species: The red-breasted nuthatch is an uncommon winter resident in pine forests; it has rusty underparts, has a dark eye line, and is smaller. Although the black-and-white warbler also creeps upside-down on trees, it is distinctly striped with black and white.

Size: 
Length: 5¾ inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Found in mature deciduous trees, in forests, woodlands, parks, and suburban areas. The related red-breasted nuthatch prefers conifer woodlands. White-breasted nuthatches are cavity nesters who enlarge existing hollows in trees or move into abandoned woodpecker holes. Thus they require standing dead trees with wood soft enough to be excavated. This is a big reason to allow “snags” to remain standing in woods.
Foods: 
Nuthatches forage for insects, seeds, and berries and are a frequent visitor to bird feeders. They sometimes create caches of seeds for later consumption. They often participate in mixed-species foraging flocks in winter. They provide a good example of how each member of a such flocks utilizes the forest differently. The nuthatch’s unusual foraging behavior—acrobatically creeping on all sides of trunks and branches—enables it to find food where other insectivores can’t.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide.
Status: 
Common permanent resident.
Life cycle: 
The female nuthatch builds the nest in an existing cavity in trees, sometimes an abandoned woodpecker hole. She lays 5-9 eggs, which are incubated for about 2 weeks. The young fledge in 26 days. There is one brood a year. Pairs remain together throughout the year, chasing other nuthatches from their territory.
Human connections: 
Nuthatches devour a host of insect pests of trees, such as borers, weevils, scales, and the larvae and pupae of destructive moths. They eat a variety of wild nuts and seeds, but in our backyards, they eat sunflower seeds, peanuts and peanut butter, and suet.
Ecosystem connections: 
Mixed-species foraging flocks can help birds in several ways. With more individuals hunting, it may increase efficiency in finding food when it is scarce. Also, there are more pairs of eyes to watch for predators, and a flock may prevent territorial birds from driving any one of them away.
Shortened URL
http://mdc.mo.gov/node/19953