Nuthatches are charming little birds that you definitely want in your yard. They keep trees in good condition by eating destructive caterpillars, wood borers, beetles and other insects. And they’re fun to watch! They’ll keep you amused with their antics — like climbing down and around trees head-first, or hanging upside down on bird feeders. And they also have the cute habit of wedging their bird seed in crevices where they can hack away to open the shells. In fact, that’s how nuthatches got their name — “hatch” is a Middle English word for “hack.”
Five species of nuthatches are found in the US, but the two most common are the White-breasted Nuthatch and the Red-breasted Nuthatch. Others are the Pygmy and Brown-headed Nuthatches. Although they do love insects, you can easily attract these birds to your bird seed feeders.
Nuthatches are very easy to please. They love suet. Especially nut and peanut butter flavors. Use a hanging suet basket and fill it with peanut flavored suet cakes. They’ll soon be clinging to the grid, usually upside down!
Nuthatches also love black oil and gray striped sunflower seeds and the White-breasted Nuthatch likes corn. Try a mix of sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts with bits of cracked corn in it, like Duncraft’s Super No-Waste Blend. You can offer these bird seeds and mixes in any kind of bird feeder — in a tube feeder, a platform feeder or a hopper type feeder.
Nuthatches aren’t fussy about where they get their bird seed. In fact, nuthatches are tame enough that you might even get them to eat nutmeats from your hand. Try cracking up some walnuts and offer tiny pieces on an outstretched hand near your feeders. Be very still and patient! The best time to try this is usually the morning after a snowstorm when lots of hungry birds will be at the feeders.
You can also attract and keep nuthatches in your yard by planting a few of the trees that bear the nuts and seeds that they like. Red-breasted Nuthatches love the seeds of conifers, such as pine, spruce, and fir trees. White-breasted Nuthatches love acorns and beechnuts. And since they are cavity dwellers, nuthatches also readily use nesting boxes. Find a house with a floor about 4 to 6 inches square, about 8 to 10 inches high, and with an entry hole of 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Nuthatches aren’t fussy about their housing either! Put it between 12 and 20 feet up in a tree.
Chickadees and wrens are also attracted to houses this size, so put several around your property to lessen competition between the different species of birds. With a little luck, you may soon have families of nuthatches taking care of your trees, coming to your feeders and providing you with hours of bird watching fun!