December 4, 2020
The white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is an agile little bird that you've probably seen creeping up and down the trunks of trees, especially if you have a suet feeder mounted on a tree (like my suet feeder, which disappeared mysteriously the other day; I'm assuming a particularly stout squirrel dragged it home for a trophy).
White-breasted nuthatches can be found throughout most of the U.S. and into parts of Canada and Mexico. There are nine different subspecies of white-breasted nuthatch, although the ones we find in Virginia (Sitta carolinensis carolinensis) is the most widespread and can be found throughout most of the east coast and into the midwest. Once you get to the west coast and into Mexico, the subspecies become truly varied, and they're mostly identified by subtle differences in plumage.
The ideal habitat for these birds are mature woods and woodland edges, and they seem to prefer deciduous forests over coniferous forests. One reason they tend to prefer mature forests is that they require holes in trees for nesting. Like many animals, dead trees are important for their survival, and the removal of dead trees from forests can cause their numbers to decline.
If you'd like to attract white-breasted nuthatches to your property, they enjoy suet feeders and birdseed. These birds are omnivorous and will mostly eat insects during the summer, but as the weather becomes cold, seeds begin to make up the lion's share of their diet.
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