White-breasted Nuthatch

The white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is a species of bird in the nuthatch family, Sittidae. It breeds throughout much of North America, except in the cooler and drier areas. It is mainly found at low altitudes, in deciduous forests or in mixed woodlands.

The breeding habitat of the white-breasted nuthatch is woodland across North America, from southern Canada to northern Florida and southern Mexico. In the eastern part of its range, its preferred habitat is old-growth open deciduous or mixed forest, including orchards, parks, suburban gardens and cemeteries; it is found mainly in the lowlands, although it breeds at 1,675 m (5,495 ft) altitude in Tennessee. In the west and Mexico, the white-breasted nuthatch is found in open montane pine-oak woodlands, and nesting occurs at up to 3,200 m (10,500 ft) altitude in Nevada, California and Mexico. The presence of mature or decaying trees with holes suitable for nesting is essential, and trees such as oak, beech and hickory are favored in the east since they also provide edible seeds.

The white-breasted nuthatch is omnivorous, eating insects and seeds. It places large food items such as acorns or hickory nuts in crevices in tree trunks, and then hammers them open with its strong beak; surplus seeds are cached under loose bark or crevices of trees. The diet in winter may be nearly 70% seeds, but in summer it is mainly insects. The insects consumed by the white-breasted nuthatch include caterpillars, ants, and pest species such as pine weevils, oystershell and other scale insects, and jumping plant lice.

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