White-breasted Nuthatches Discovered My Nest Box

by Larry Jordan on May 8, 2011

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) Male photos by Larry Jordan

I was out checking my nest boxes this morning and as I opened the front of the box and looked in, something was different.  These didn’t look like Oak Titmouse nestlings and this didn’t look like an Oak Titmouse nest!

These are White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) chicks.  They have lighter down than Oak Titmouse nestlings and longer beaks too (the post of the Oak Titmouse nestlings also has a link to a must see video of their cousins, the Tufted Titmouse, showing the entire nesting cycle of this bird, from nest hunting to fledging).

I have had a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches living around my house continuously for years now but they have never chosen to nest in one of my nest boxes…until now.

I was expecting Oak Titmice to be using this box.  They also use lots of fur and hair in their nests, but this one was different, it had lots of bark making up the base layer for the nest.

Only the female White-breasted Nuthatch incubates the eggs for 12 to 14 days. The male feeds her while she is incubating and after the eggs hatch, for a few days while she broods the clutch.

I got a couple of photos of the proud parents bringing food to the nest.  It is fairly dark where the nest box is located so the photos are a bit grainy as I had to use a 3200 ISO to get a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action.  Nuthatches move rather quickly but they will stop occasionally for a split-second photo op.

Here is a shot of what appears to be the male White-breasted Nuthatch bringing in a moth.  Both parents were feeding the chicks and removing the fecal sacs.

Here is the male peeking out the nest box entrance after the feeding. This is an old nest box on which I just replaced the roof and front. The entrance hole is 1 1/2 inches which works for all my cavity nesting song birds, the Western Bluebird, Oak Titmouse, Tree Swallow, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow and now, the White-breasted Nuthatch which often reuses their nests year after year 😉

To see more great bird photos, check out Bird Photography Weekly!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

TexWisGirl May 8, 2011 at 8:33 am

how wonderful! they look like hungry little buggers!


Mike B. May 8, 2011 at 9:24 am

Incredible photos Larry! Love the yellow chick beaks. I’m yet to have nuthatches nest in the yard.


Mick May 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

Great photos especially of the chicks with their beaks held up ready for food. Very nice to have a new species using one of the nesting boxes and here’s hoping they return next year as well.


Amy May 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Isn’t it wonderful to have a peek inside the private lives of birds? I was so excited last year to have my first experience watching a nesting family – American Robins by our front yard. They are back at it again this spring. Thank you for sharing your nuthatches with us.


Kelly May 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Aaaahhhh! Too cute, Larry. I love those bright yellow bills! I hope you post a few more posts showing their progress as they grow!


dreamfalcon May 9, 2011 at 10:15 am

Larry, this is just great. You even opened the nest box to take photos. I would be too afraid that they would fall out. But now I see you doing it, I’m really tempted…


Rebecca May 9, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Great post and photos! I’m so glad that you took photos of the little chicks -too cute 🙂


NatureFootstep May 10, 2011 at 3:09 am

a beautiful nuthatch. And so nice to finally have them nesting. 🙂 Somehow it is strange that those tiny, ugly chicks can become those beautiful birds. Yes, I think they are ugly, but still you want to take good care of them, don´t you?


The Zen Birdfeeder May 11, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Those babies are too cute!


Gwen May 18, 2017 at 6:57 pm

Awesome pictures. I love nuthatches. They build a nest in a condo style birdhouse with small perches. Early in the mornings I would have to scare away a blackbird, or grackle. I think they got the babies…so sad. We will take that house down and build a safe one for next year. They nested there last year also. I love the nuthatches! No sign of even the adults now. They were here all winter


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