AudioDateDownLeftRightUpCloseReportGallerySettingsGiftLanguageGridListMapMenuPhotoPlayPlusSearchStarUserIconVideo

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Sitta pusilla

Order:
Passeriformes
Family:
Sittidae
Sections
  • Authors: Withgott, James H. and Kimberly G. Smith
  • Revisors: Slater, Gary L. and John D. Lloyd
  • Published: Jul 26, 2013
Listen

Free Introduction Article Access

The Introduction Article is just the first of 11 articles in each species account that provide life history information for the species. The remaining articles provide detailed information regarding distribution, migration, habitat, diet, sounds, behavior, breeding, current population status and conservation. Each species account also includes a multimedia section that displays the latest photos, audio selections and videos from Macaulay Library’s extensive galleries. Written and continually updated by acknowledged experts on each species, Birds of North America accounts include a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.

A subscription is needed to access the remaining account articles and multimedia content. Rates start at $5 USD for 30 days of complete access.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Sign In
Enlarge
Figure 1. Distribution of the Brown-headed Nuthatch.
Enlarge
Brown-headed Nuthatch, Wekiwa Springs SP, FL, 24 November.

Brown-headed Nuthatch is distinctive within its range across the Southeastern US. It is similar only to the Pygmy Nuthatch of the West, but their ranges do not overlap. Brown-headed Nuthatches appear similar year-round except for the usual fading and bleaching caused by plumage wear. They are freshest in fall, after completing their prebasic molt. It is difficult to age birds in the field, though in-hand examination can reveal molt limits among the wing coverts of first-year birds. The following is a link to this photographer's website: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaellibbephotography/.

© Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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

This nuthatch's habit of staying high in the canopy often makes it difficult to observe, but its tendency to nest lower has encouraged studies of its breeding biology. Norris's ( Norris 1958b ) pioneering work detailed the breeding biology of a Georgia population in the course of a comparative study with its sister species, the Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea). Many aspects of Brown-headed Nuthatch biology, including its cooperative breeding behavior and its population demography, have recently been investigated in color-marked populations, providing a wealth of information upon which to base further study.

The Brown-headed's association with pines, particularly mature pines, and its reliance on snags for nesting may make it a good indicator species for the health of southeastern pine forests, which have been extensively logged over the last century. The failure of this species to recolonize areas where populations were extirpated because of habitat change, and the near disappearance of populations on Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas (S. p. insularis), highlight the vulnerability of this species to habitat alteration by humans. Nonetheless, important conservation actions have been accomplished -- this is one of the few North American landbirds that has been successfully reintroduced to habitat it formerly occupied.

Recommended Citation

Slater, Gary L., John D. Lloyd, James H. Withgott and Kimberly G. Smith. (2013). Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/bnhnut

DOI: 10.2173/bna.349