Brown-headed Nuthatch Nest Boxes

Brown-headed Nuthatches are one of our smallest Piedmont area birds at about 4 1/4 inches long. Like the larger White-breasted Nuthatch, they like to scramble down trees and nest in cavities. They are most at home in native pine trees like the Virginia Pine, where they eat pine seeds and insects. They like to utter a high-pitched two-note call that sounds like a rubber duck, but they also chatter a lot. Birders like to refer to them as “squeaky toys.”

Photo by David Disher
Lee Williams, Photo by Nita Colvin

Populations of Brown-headed Nuthatches still are doing well in our area, but logging, fire suppression and development threaten their preferred habitat of pine woodlands. However, these little birds take well to man-made cavities aka nest boxes, and Forsyth Audubon has taken part in a statewide project led by Audubon North Carolina. As such, we placed 83 boxes at 13 locations: Tanglewood (15), Bethabara (10), Miller Park (5), Reynolda (10), Triad Park (9), Washington Park (3), Salem Lake (5), Hathaway Park (4), Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden (4) and Old Town (5) and Winston Lake Golf Courses (8), Southside Library (3) and Summit School (2).

These nuthatch boxes are the same as bluebird boxes, except that the entry hole is smaller – 1 or 1 1/8 inches, compared to 1 1/2 inches for a bluebird box. Bluebird boxes can be adapted by attaching a metal excluder with a smaller entrance. Preferred locations are open edges near some cone-bearing pine trees.

Consider placing a nuthatch nest box in your own yard, as well. If you have a spare bluebird box, email for a free excluder or purchase one for about $3.50 at Wild Birds Unlimited or Wright’s Backyard Birding Center. Also, you can buy bluebird boxes at these stores or at State Employees Credit Union, or you can build your own with plans available here. Sign up at and report what happens.