Category Archives: Red-breasted Nuthatch

Oh, Baby

Although the Red-breasted Nuthatches never nested in my yard, I’m happy to report that it appears they fledged two little ones. They must have found a good nest site somewhere in the neighborhood because over the last 2 weeks, the male nuthatch has been bringing his chicks to my feeder.

The male Red-breasted Nuthatch getting ready to raid the feeder for food for his chicks. Photo by Jamie Simo.

The fledglings are duller than their dad, more like their mom with washed-out red breasts and pale grey upper parts. They also have that typical fleshy gape indicative of young birds. Theirs is bright orange.

At first, the young nuthatches were staying in the aspen in the corner of my yard while the male took them seed, but today the little ones were flying to the feeder themselves and eating. They were even brave enough to perch on the pole while I refilled the feeder!

The male Red-breasted Nuthatch feeds one of his fledglings. Photo by Jamie Simo.

I haven’t seen the female nuthatch at all. I know male Northern Cardinals are the ones that feed the fledglings from the first brood while the female begins the second nesting attempt, but Red-breasted Nuthatches typically only have 1 brood a year, so that’s probably not the case here. I’ve also read that both male and female Red-breasted Nuthatches feed their fledglings, so I’m not sure if something happened to the female or if maybe there’s a “divide and conquer” strategy going on (i.e. the male takes care of 2 of the young and the female takes care of the rest). Maybe next year they’ll nest in my yard so I can find out more.

So Long

Well, it’s been a while since the Red-breasted Nuthatches checked out the nestbox so I think it’s safe to turn off the camera stream. They’ve almost certainly found a different nesting cavity by now and hopefully are well on their way to a young family. Like a lot of cavity nesting birds, the male may find a nest site, but it’s the female who has final say over where their babies are raised.

About 2 weeks ago, the male nuthatch succeeded in getting his mate to check out the accommodations.  As you can see in the video, the female spent a lot of time jumping into the box and turning around inside, maybe judging the box for size. Whether it was the size or configuration or some other characteristic, she must’ve found the box wanting. I saw the two of them on the box one more time last week, but the new woodchips I put inside haven’t been disturbed since.

Good luck, little nuthatches! I hope I see you again this fall and winter!



Unexpected Visitors

The chickadee nestbox cam has been up for a little more than 2 weeks and, except for a brief stop-in on that first day, no chickadees have checked out the box. But that may be because a Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) seems to have laid a claim to it instead and, despite their size (about 4.5 inches), Red-breasted Nuthatches are fiercely territorial.

Female Red-breasted Nuthatch on bird feeder. Note the washed-out look to her head stripes. Photo by Jamie Simo.

Red-breasted Nuthatches, so-named because of their habit of jamming seeds and nuts into crevices and hammering them open with their long, slightly upturned bills, are active  little birds with big personalities. Both sexes have rusty underparts, blue-grey upper parts, a short tail, and black and white stripes on the head, though females are a little duller in color than the males. Their calls are often said to sound like the toots of little tin horns.

Most Red-breasted Nuthatches in Colorado are drawn to higher elevations where there are more conifers, but this little guy appears enamored with my nestbox with its nearby supply of bird seed and suet. Even after emptying the wood shavings out of the box, he returns to it regularly many times a day calling for his mate and even drumming intermittently like a woodpecker. So far I haven’t seen her enter the box, though occasionally she has clung to the entrance hole and chittered quietly to him.


Much of the literature I’ve read says Red-breasted Nuthatches rarely use nestboxes. This may be because they’re able to excavate their own cavities in decaying wood. Without many dead trees in my neck of the woods, however, the odds of this pair choosing my nestbox may be greater. That is, of course, if the female decides she likes the neighborhood; female Red-breasted Nuthatches, like with most other songbirds, get final say on the nesting location.

If they do decide to nest, I can expect between 4 and 7 (6 on average) eggs to be laid in a nest lined with grass and bark and incubated exclusively by the female. A big hint that the birds are nesting will be if they start spreading conifer resin around the entrance hole of the box, which is thought to deter predators.