Article and photos by Charly Mann
White-breasted Nuthatch in northeast Oklahoma
White-breasted Nuthatches are found in mature groves of deciduous trees such as oak, hickory, and maple in Oklahoma.
The most distinguishing feature of the White-breasted Nuthatch is its habit of creeping head first down trees as they search for food. They have extra long rear claws that provide the balance they need to do this.
White-breasted Nuthatches are usually seen like this, going head-first down a tree
White-breasted Nuthatches have a bluish gray back, and a snow white face, belly, and chest. They have a large head and virtually no neck. They have a long narrow bill and a very short tail. Males have a glossy black forehead and crown, while these features are gray on females. Nuthatches are a small bird, only 5 inches in length, but they have a loud nasal voice that will direct you to the tree they are doing their acrobatic foraging in.
White-breasted Nuthatch outside of Tulsa (this picture is actually upside-down)
The White-breasted nuthatch is a close relative of the Tufted Titmouse and the Carolina Chickadee, and they are all often seen together searching for food in the fall and winter.
White-breasted Nuthatch outside of the ranger's office in Osage State Park
They got the name nuthatch from the expression "nuthack" which describes the way they wedge seeds and nuts in the crevices of trees and then hack them open.
The lifespan of most of these birds is two years, though some have lived as long as ten.
This Nuthatch is storing food in the crevice of a tree
White-breasted Nuthatches usually nest in natural tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes.