Brown-Headed Nuthatch of the Southeastern U.S.
Nuthatch of the Southeastern U.S. - Photos and Information
Brown-headed Nuthatches are indigenous to the Pine forests of the Southeastern United States where they are permanent residents. They are one of nature's acrobats and we never tire of their antics. On many occasions we have photographed these unusual little birds during feeding and nesting activities.
Their primary food is Pine nuts, so their food supply has been depleted as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Luckily they will also eat black oil sunflower seeds. If you live in the Southeast and want to attract them to your yard, put up a sunflower seed feeder and a bluebird size nest box.
The calls and sounds of a nuthatch as it moves among the trees.
Brown-headed Nuthatch Description
The Brown-headed nuthatch is a small nuthatch. It is often seen climbing headfirst down tree trunks. The crown is brown and the underparts are whitish. The back, nape, wings, and rump blue gray. The male and female look alike.
Size: 10-11 cm (4-4 in)
Wingspan: 16-18 cm (6-7 in)
Weight: 10 g (0.35 ounces)
The calls are high pitched and squeaky, like the squeaks of a rubber duck toy.
Hear the songs of the Brown-headed Nuthatch.
Populations are decreasing throughout range because of habitat degradation. The population on Grand Bahama Island, which is possibly a distinct subspecies, is nearly gone, probably the result of logging. These birds are listed on the Audubon Watchlist.
Reference: All About Birds
In the pine forests of the Southeast, little groups of Brown-headed Nuthatches are frequent visitors at sunflower seed feeders. They also enjoy suet. After Hurricane Katrina we saw many more Brown-headed Nuthatches at our feeders because most of their natural food, pine nuts, had been destroyed along with the thousands of mature Pine trees.
According to Martin, Zim and Nelson in American Wildlife & Plants A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits, pine seeds make up more than half of their diet. Their animal food is gathered from the trunks and twigs of trees and consists of Hymenoptera, moth eggs, caterpillars and cocoons and scale insects. Plant food consists primarily of Pine seeds.
Brown-headed Nuthatch Eating Sunflower Seed
During the winter the family groups may join and forage with other families or with mixed-species flocks containing woodpeckers, kinglets, titmice and warblers.
Brown-headed Nuthatch 2
Brown-headed Nuthatches nest in natural cavities and man-made boxes. They seem to favor the natural cavities in our habitat. This year was the first time that they used one of our bluebird sized nestboxes.
They are monogamous and will sometimes mate for life. Very often a Nuthatch pair will have a young family member (usually a yearling male) who acts as a helper or "nanny". We observed that there was always one adult bird either on the nest or very close by. All of the adult birds care for the young. The pair that used our nest box fledged six little nuthatches.
Nest building begins in March, here in South Louisiana. Excavation of a natural cavity is done by both male and female and may take 6 weeks to complete. Some Brown-headed Nuthatches will weatherproof their nest cavities by stuffing plant down or cotton in the crevices.
Nuthatch with Insect for Young
This is the best guide for building and managing a nest box trail or a couple of boxes. There is wonderful information about the nesting habits of bluebirds and the other birds which use nest boxes. This is my go-to book when I have a question about cavity nesting birds.
This is a long video, but it shows the interesting breeding behavior of a pair and a helper from a previous brood in a natural nesting cavity.
They nest in holes in trees, usually dead trees, but will use a nest box. Nests are made primarily of pine seed wings, with shredded bark, Spanish moss, grass rootlets, fur, feathers, and other soft material.
Egg Description and Laying
Eggs are white or buffy, with reddish brown spots evenly distributed over egg or concentrated as blotches at the large end. They are laid one a day.
Clutch Size and Incubation
The females usually lay 3-7 eggs (range from 3-9). The female incubates the clutch for 14 days. During this time she may be fed, on and off the nest, by the male and the helper.
Condition at Hatching and Fledging
Young are helpless,with some down on their bodies. They leave the nest after about 18 to 19 days. The fledglings are dependent on their parents for another 24 to 26 days.
Other Facts about Reproduction from All About Birds
What kind of Nuthatch do you have in your habitat?
© 2008 Yvonne L B