Family Nuthatches (Sittidae)

Least Concern

Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)


French: Sittelle à tête brune German: Braunkopfkleiber Spanish: Trepador cabecipardo

Sitta pusilla


, 1790,

Carolina, Jamaica = South Carolina, USA


See remarks under S. pygmaea. Geographical variation slight, size decreasing clinally from N to S, with a “step” between more or less isolated population in Maryland (large, long-winged, deep-billed) and that of Virginia/North Carolina. Until recently considered conspecific with S. insularis. Monotypic.


USA from extreme SE Oklahoma, E Texas and W & S Arkansas (S from Ouachita Mts) E to SE Tennessee, C & E North Carolina, SE Virginia, tidewater areas of SE Maryland (S from Talbot County, mostly E of Chesapeake Bay) and extreme S Delaware, S to Gulf states (absent from grassland strip along coast) and Florida (S to Collier County).

Descriptive notes

10·5 cm; mean 10·2 g. A very small nuthatch with brown cap. Adult in fresh plumage (Aug–Oct) has lores, crown, nape and upper mantle warm pale brown... read more


Rather vocal. Contact call a soft “tip” or “pit”, during foraging often... read more


Found almost exclusively in association with pines, especially loblolly pine (Pinus taeda... read more

Food and feeding

Food insects and spiders (Araneae), in winter mainly pine seeds; young fed mostly with animal matter, but occasionally also on pine seeds (... read more


Season early Mar to mid May, sometimes Feb in Florida, exceptionally mid Jul in Georgia, but nest-hole excavation from late Feb (rarely,... read more


Resident, with very limited post-breeding dispersal. Home ranges typically 0·3–47... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common throughout most of US range; uncommon in Arkansas, Tennessee, Maryland and Delaware, and rare in Oklahoma. Recorded densities... read more

Recommended citation

Harrap, S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 6 April 2020).