Nuthatch, the common name for a family of small songbirds related to titmice and creepers. The name comes from the bird's habit of placing a nut in a tree crevice and "hatching" (hacking) it with its bill to extract the nut meat. The nuthatch is bluish-gray above with lighter underparts. It has strong feet and a strong, sharply pointed bill.
There are 22 species of nuthatches, 4 of which are found in North America. Nuthatches are four to six inches (10 to 15 cm) long, depending on the species. The white-breasted nuthatch has a black crown and a black band on the back of the neck. color page, for illustration.) The red-breasted nuthatch has a black stripe through the eye and a white stripe above it. The underparts and breast are rust-colored. The brown-headed nuthatch has a brown head with a small white spot on the nape of the neck. The pygmy nuthatch resembles the brown-headed nuthatch but is smaller.
Most species of nuthatches live in trees. They feed on insects, nuts, and seeds. Nuthatches are noted for their ability to creep headfirst down a tree trunk. The female nuthatch lays five or six white eggs with reddish brown speckles in a cup-shaped nest of twigs and grass. She incubates the eggs while the male finds food. After the eggs hatch, both parents care for the young.
Nuthatches belong to the subfamily Sittinae of the family Sittidae. The white-breasted nuthatch is Sitta carolinensis; red-breasted nuthatch, S. canadensis; brown-headed nuthatch, S. pusilla; pygmy nuthatch, S. pygmaea.