MDC, partners begin round two of Brown-headed Nuthatch reintroduction

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and partners will begin phase two of Brown-headed Nuthatch reintroduction efforts in the Missouri Ozarks this month. The reintroduction was made possible through extensive habitat restoration, and through partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service’s Mark Twain National Forest, Ouachita National Forest and Northern Research Station, Tall Timbers Research Station, the University of Missouri, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The Brown-headed Nuthatch was extirpated, made locally extinct, in Missouri likely in the early 1900s following removal of shortleaf pine woodlands across the Missouri Ozarks. Millions of acres of pine woodland existed in the state prior to widespread logging that denuded the Ozarks in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The regenerated forest seen today is dominated by oaks and hickories that replaced pines after their removal. Following extensive restoration of pine woodlands in the Mark Twain National Forest, the necessary habitat now exists for Brown-headed Nuthatches in Missouri.

The Brown-headed Nuthatch is a small songbird that measures 4-inches in length. The species is a non-migratory, year-round resident. They’re relatively weak fliers, so their dispersal a few hundred miles north from their current breeding populations in Arkansas without connecting shortleaf pine habitat is unlikely.

“Brown-headed Nuthatches require healthy, stable pine-woodland habitat – something Missouri mostly lost, but has been regaining,” said MDC State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick. “Now that our state has restored this critical habitat, our recent efforts to reintroduce these birds have been successful so far and we’re looking forward to year two.”

Last year, MDC and partners translocated 46 nuthatches from Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas to sites within the Mark Twain Forest that have been managed for woodland with tree-thinning and prescribed fire for up to 20 years. Another 60 birds are set to be released this month.

“Reintroduction efforts in 2020 went well. We tracked the birds monthly post-release and their survival compares well with other Brown-headed Nuthatch populations. We monitored successful nesting this past spring, and we’re hoping to see the same positive results this year and down the road,” said Kendrick. “I encourage the public to visit our state’s shortleaf pineries to look for this charismatic species this fall!”

To learn more about the Brown-headed Nuthatch, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website at, or the MDC website at Brown-Headed Nuthatch | Missouri Department of Conservation (