Top of head black; under parts mostly white except a rusty wash near rump; back gray; wings and tail mottled gray, black, and white. 15 cm (5.75 in) in length. The call of this species is a low, nasal yank. All of the birds in this family are commonly seen climbing up, down, and around tree trunks and branches.
The breeding season begins in mid-March, peaks in mid-April, and extends through May. The nest site is commonly 3-18 m (10-60 feet) high. This adaptable species nests in a naturally occurring cavity, excavates its own cavity, uses an abandoned woodpecker cavity, or occasionally uses nest boxes. The female lays 3-10 (usually 5-8) eggs that she incubates for 12 days. The male feeds the incubating female. The young are altricial and fledge 14 days after hatching. The juveniles are fed for a short period after leaving the nest.
Hardwood forests are the primary habitat of the White-breasted Nuthatch. It prefers mature trees and will frequent more open forested areas, including residential areas, parks, and bottomlands. The diet of this nuthatch includes mostly insects and spiders, although during the winter it may eat some acorns and nuts. The food is found by searching the trunks and branches of trees.
The White-breasted Nuthatch occurs throughout most of the United States all year. Within the Southeast this bird is accidental along the southern coastal areas, including all of Florida. In Georgia this nuthatch is uncommon in most of the state and rare along the coast; in the northern quarter of the state it is fairly common during the breeding season.
This species is common in appropriate habitat and is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in any part of its southeastern range.
The most similar species are the Red-breasted Nuthatch and the Brown-headed Nuthatch. The Red-breasted Nuthatch differs in appearance by having an additional face stripe (a black eye stripe) and very rusty colored under parts. The Brown-headed Nuthatch has a brown head instead of black and appears to be much smaller than the White-breasted Nuthatch.