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Nesting Boxes for the Brown-headed Nuthatch

Download brown-headed nuthatch nesting box plans (requires Adobe Acrobat).

The brown-headed nuthatch can be attracted to the backyard by creating proper nesting habitat along with good feeding stations supplied with sunflower seeds.

While three species of nuthatches can be seen in Georgia, the 3 1/2 inch brown-headed is the smallest, and it is the only nuthatch that sports a brown cap.  The other two nuthatches found in Georgia are the white-breasted and red-breasted.

Brown-headed nuthatch populations are declining in many areas.  In fact, the brown-headed nuthatch is considered by some experts to be the least common nuthatch in North America.  Brown-headed nuthatches prefer mature pine forests, and loss of this habitat has played a major role in their decline.  Conservationists are working with forest managers to improve their modern forestry practices by avoiding short rotations and leaving dead trees or snags within the forest to make the pinelands more suitable for these charming birds.

Natural History

Preferred Nesting Sites:  Brown-headed nuthatches nest in dead trees, old woodpecker holes and wood fence posts.  Both the male and female excavate nesting cavities.  Nesting cavities average only 5 feet above ground, however, nest sites range from 2 to 50 feet above the forest floor.

Nest:  Nests are typically constructed of strips of inner tree bark, grasses, wood chips, hair, feathers and the wings off pine seeds.

Eggs:  Clutch sizes range from 3-9 eggs (commonly 5-6).  Eggs are white and adorned with fine reddish-brown specks.

Incubation:  Females incubate the eggs.  Males will often feed their mates on the nest during incubation.  Eggs hatch in 14 days.

Fledging:  Young birds leave the nest in 18-19 days.

Broods/Year:  Brown-headed nuthatches typically produce one brood per year, however, rarely they will nest a second time.

Diet:  Pine seeds, cockroaches, beetles, spiders, other insects and their eggs.

Interesting Facts
  • Male nuthatches will roost in cavities while their mates incubate eggs
  • At times, another male nuthatch will help feed an incubating female and her young
  • Nuthatches will store food in bark crevices
  • At times, nuthatches will seal cracks and holes in nesting boxes with plant material

For more information, contact WRD's Nongame Conservation Section (478) 994-1438.

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