Brown-headed Nuthatch Sitta pusilla

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The summary below is an overview from The Birds of North America Online.

BNA Account Authors: Withgott, James H., and Kimberly G. Smith

The Brown-headed Nuthatch is endemic to pine forests of the southeastern United States, and rarely ventures from pine-dominated areas. It is one of the few cooperatively breeding bird species native to North America, and one of the few birds for which tool use has been documented (individuals use chips of pine bark to pry off other bark chips while foraging).

Despite its abundance within appropriate habitat, this species remains little studied. Much of what we know of its biology comes from the pioneering work of Norris (1958), who detailed the breeding biology of a Georgia population in the course of a comparative study with its sister species, the Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea). The Brown-headed Nuthatch's habit of staying high in the canopy of pines often makes it difficult to observe, but its tendency to nest lower has resulted in an adequate literature on breeding biology.

The Brown-headed Nuthatch's association with pines, particularly mature pines, may make it an indicator species for the health of southeastern pine forests, which have been extensively logged for the last century. The failure of this species to recolonize areas where populations were extirpated as a result of habitat change, and the near disappearance of populations on Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas┬┐a possible subspecies┬┐highlight this species' vulnerability to habitat alteration by humans.

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© Gregory Budney

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  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/bnhnut