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Species Description

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Sitta pusilla

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Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sittidae


Top of head brown; lower parts of head white; under parts buffy white; back, wings, and tail mostly gray; small white patch on the nape (at the base of the head on the back). 11 cm (4.5 in) in length. The call of this species sounds like a pet's squeaky toy. All of the birds in this family are commonly seen climbing up, down, and around tree trunks and branches.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in March, peaks in April, and extends into mid-June. Nesting habitat is strictly associated with pines. This cavity nester usually excavates the nest cavity 0.5-3 m (2-10 feet) in height, usually in a pine snag. It will sometimes use nest boxes placed in appropriate habitat. The female lays 3-7 (usually 4-5) eggs that she incubates for 14 days. The young are altricial and fledge 18-19 days after hatching. The juveniles are fed for a short period after leaving the nest.

Natural History

The Brown-headed Nuthatch has an association with pines. Pine woodlands are the key habitat requirement for this species. The diet includes insects, spiders, and pine seeds. The Brown-headed Nuthatch gets most of its food by searching the trunks and branches of pine trees. It is also a known tool user, because it will use a piece of bark by grasping it in its bill to pry loose more bark to hunt for insects beneath.


Brown-headed Nuthatch Region Map The Brown-headed Nuthatch occurs only in the southeastern United States. Its range extends from coastal Virginia south to Georgia and west to eastern Texas. In Georgia it is common except above approximately 600 m (2000 ft) elevation. It is more common in lower three-fourths of the state.

Conservation Status

This species is fairly common in appropriate habitat and is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in any part of its range.

Similar Species

The most similar species to the Brown-headed Nuthatch are the White-breasted Nuthatch and the Red-breasted Nuthatch. The White-breasted differs in appearance because the top of its head is black and it is larger than the Brown-headed Nuthatch. The Red-breasted Nuthatch also has black on the top of the head, a black eye stripe, and is rust-colored underneath.