Cultivate an oasis with the right plants, cozy shelter, good food and more

Nuthatches are beautiful birds that are fun to watch year-round! In Canada, the most common backyard nuthatch is the Red-breasted Nuthatch and the White-breasted Nuthatch. The Red-breasted Nuthatch can be found in much of the boreal forest from coast to coast and tend to inhabit deciduous forests, whereas the White-breasted Nuthatch is mainly found in the eastern hardwood forests, but can be found across Canada.

What sets these birds apart from others is their unique ability to descend head downwards on three trunks and branches – talk about a bird’s eye view! These “upside-down birds” (locally called in some parts across Canada) can descend downwards due to an enlarged hind toe and a stubby tail.

Step #1: Offer them plants

The best way to attract Red-breasted Nuthatches is with coniferous trees. They love the seeds of spruce, pine, and fir and will search the branches and trunks of these trees for insects. Consider planting coniferous trees if space allows. The next best option is to plant berry-bearing bushes and vines such as winterberry, chokecherry, mountain ash and more as they feed on insects that these bushes attract. These berry-bearing bushes, conifers and vines also provide shelter for the birds!

Step #2: Give them food

There are several options to help with food. Firstly, the Red-breasted Nuthatch’s primary source of food is insects. This means the more insects in the backyard the better for nuthatches! Skip the herbicide and insecticide next year because with nuthatches around your garden is likely not to become overrun with insects.

Another option is a birdfeeder during the winter months when insects are not accessible. They’ll even store seeds for when food is scarce. Fill winter birdfeeders with high-quality bird seeds like suet, sunflower seeds, or peanuts. Remember, keep these clean and free of moldy seeds to keep birds healthy.

Here are best practices on bird feeding.

Step #3: Create a source of water

Kristin Duff | CWF Photo Club

All birds need a source of water, nuthatches are no different. The best way to help nuthatches with water is by offering a source of moving water like a fountain, garden sprayer, a year-round pond with moving water. Nuthatches can’t resist moving water – this will give these birds a place to play and stay hydrated.

Step #4: Give them shelter

© Tim Marsh | CWF Photo Club

Nuthatches are often easy pray for owls, cats and other predators. The best way to help nuthatches is to provide plenty of spots to hide and seek shelter. This includes a variety of trees, dense shrubs, and bushes.

Consider leaving dead trunks, trees and limbs as nuthatches often nest in tree stumps. Nuthatches may use a nesting box if there is really nothing available and these should be placed just a couple feet off the ground to mimic the height of a tree stump.

Listen to this story (and more) in the CWF podcast, “Your Connection to Wildlife” >

For more information on nuthatches, be sure to check out the Hinterland Who’s Who factsheet.