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Of the four nuthatch species living in the United States, the most common are the Red-breasted Nuthatch, seen left here, and the White-breasted Nuthatch, on the right. The nuthatch's insistent call matches its aggressiveness. As it works its way down a tree trunk, the nuthatch can spot-and eat-all the tasty morsels missed by the rest of the birds working their way up the tree.
Written by Ellen Blackstone
This is BirdNote!
[Red-breasted Nuthatch calling]
Have you noticed a sleek, stub-tailed bird, pecking its way down a tree trunk? It’s a probably a nuthatch. It might remind you of a tiny woodpecker, but woodpeckers travel up the trunk, leaning on their tails.
Where did this bird get a name like “nuthatch”? Perhaps because this tiny songbird tucks insects, nuts, and seeds under bark or in crevices of trees. Then it hacks the tidbits apart with repetitive strikes of its beak, like using a hatchet.
Of the four nuthatch species living in the United States, the most common are the Red-breasted Nuthatch [Repeat calls of Red-breasted Nuthatch] and the White-breasted Nuthatch. [White-breasted Nuthatch calling]
The nuthatch’s insistent call matches its aggressiveness. These tough little guys will challenge birds larger than themselves for food and territory. Birds gathered around a feeder give way when a nuthatch is around.
And that business of working its way down a tree trunk? It’s a clever move, because the nuthatch can spot—and eat—all the tasty morsels missed by the rest of the birds working their way up the tree.
[Vocalizations between a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches]
There’s more to learn about nuthatches—and you can see photos—when you come to our website, BirdNote.org. I’m Mary McCann.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Red breasted Nuthatch  recorded by R. Stein. White-breasted Nuthatch  recorded by G.A. Keller. Ambient sounds recorded by C. Peterson.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2011 Tune In to Nature.org July 2016 / January 2023 Narrator: Mary McCann
ID# nuthatch-02-2009-07-02-MM- old: 071105RBNUKPLU