Family Nuthatches (Sittidae)

Least Concern

Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)


French: Sittelle à poitrine rousse German: Rotbrustkleiber Spanish: Trepador canadiense

Sitta canadensis


, 1766,



A member of a species group that contains also S. whiteheadi, S. ledanti, S. krueperi, S. villosa and S. yunnanensis. Present species formerly treated as conspecific with S. whiteheadi and S. villosa; close relationship with these two supported by recent molecular data, which indicate that all three form a sister-clade to S. krueperi and S. ledanti, with a genetic distance of c. 10% between the two clades. Monotypic.


SE Alaska (E from Kodiak I) and S Canada (S from S Yukon, including Queen Charlotte Is and Vancouver I, N Saskatchewan and C Manitoba, and E to SC Quebec, S Labrador and Newfoundland, including islands of Prince Edward, Anticosti, and St Pierre and Miquelon), S in W USA (absent much of E Washington) to mountains in California (excluding immediate coast, but breeds irregularly on Santa Cruz I) and Rocky Mts and Great Basin from W & S Montana (also isolated forests in E) S to C & W Colorado, E Arizona and S New Mexico, also W South Dakota (Black Hills) and irregularly SW North Dakota and N Nebraska; in E, breeds S to NE & E Minnesota, N Wisconsin, S Michigan, NE Ohio, C Pennsylvania, N New Jersey and N Connecticut, extending S in Appalachian Mts to E Tennessee and W North Carolina. Irruptive during non-breeding period, reaching some years extreme S California, S Arizona and S New Mexico, S Texas, Gulf Coast and N Florida.

Descriptive notes

11·5 cm; male average 11g, female average 10 g (summer, Maine), autumn migrants 8–12·7 g (New Jersey). A small nuthatch with conspicuous white supercilium... read more


Commonest call a nasal, bleating or mewing “knair, knair, knair” or “yna, yna,... read more


Breeds in most temperate coniferous and mixed forests, especially where spruce (Picea),... read more

Food and feeding

Diet in summer diet mainly insects, especially beetles (Coleoptera), and spiders (Araneae), and young fed exclusively with insects; in... read more


Season mid-Apr to late Jun; normally single-brooded, only one recorded case of two broods being reared. Pairs on breeding grounds, and... read more


An irruptive migrant, winter distribution and abundance dependent on crop of spruce, fir and pine... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Generally fairly common to abundant; less common in extreme NW and extreme NE of range, and locally rare in Alaska. S boundary of breeding range... read more

Recommended citation

Harrap, S. (2019). Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis). 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 22 July 2019).