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What Do Nuthatches Eat? How to Attract Them to Your Yard!

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Algerian nuthatch

A Nuthatch is an attractive blue-gray bird that many people see but have a hard time attracting to their feeders, so you may wonder what they eat. These birds primarily eat insects, so it can be difficult to attract them to a feeder, but keep reading as we dive in to see if they ever eat other kinds of foods and what you can do to attract them to your property. Nuthatches typically eat insects and small invertebrates, but they will also eat seeds and nuts in winter.

hummingbird divider How Many Kinds of Nuthatch Can I Spot?

You can find four varieties of Nuthatch in the United States: the white-breasted Nuthatch, the red-breasted Nuthatch, the brown-headed Nuthatch, and the pigmy nuthatch. The white-breasted Nuthatch is the easiest to spot because it is a common bird throughout the country all year. The other varieties are much less common and have limited ranges.

Algerian nuthatch
Image By: Needpix

What Does a Nuthatch Look Like?

The common white-breasted Nuthatch has a gray-blue back, black cap, white cheeks, a white breast, and a rusty patch near the rump. It has a large head with no neck and a short tail, so it can look round or fat. It usually grows 5–5.5 inches long, with a wingspan of 7.5–11 inches.

What Does the Nuthatch Eat?

The Nuthatch’s main diet primarily consists of insects and small invertebrates, especially during the breeding season. However, it will quickly switch to eating seeds if food is hard to find. These birds are also quite fond of nuts. They like to hammer seeds, nuts, and even large insects into the cracks of trees to store them for later and will often visit these locations during the winter months.

Algerian nuthatch
Image Credit: Needpix

How Can I Attract a Nuthatch to My Property?

Nesting Box

The best way to invite a nuthatch to your property is to add a nesting box with a 1.25-inch entrance hole and a rough surface. Nuthatches will often visit these boxes when the temperature begins to drop. If you place a box by a few trees and are lucky, a pair may move in and decide to stay a while.


The Nuthatch is picky about the kind of food that it likes and usually sticks to eating live insects, but it will switch to seeds if food gets hard to find, and it may even visit your backyard feeder. When it visits, it will primarily look for sunflower seeds and peanuts. It’s not unusual to see them creating quite a mess at the feeder as they sort through the seeds to get what they want. Filling the feeder with primarily sunflower seeds or nuts will cut down on the mess that they make and may help convince them to visit more often.

Algerian nuthatch
Image Credit: Needpix

Clean the Yard

Nuthatches don’t like messy areas and will avoid your yard if it doesn’t have a clear and uncluttered space. To encourage the birds to visit, remove as many obstacles as possible, including piles of leaves, garden tools, and toys from your yard, especially around the feeder.

Install a Bird Bath

Many people successfully invite nuthatches to their yards by installing a bird bath. It should be a low-level birdbath with shallow water. Food, like peanut butter or suet, around the bird bath will help keep them entertained as they bathe.

white-breasted nuthatch singing
Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

Plant Trees

If you have the room to plant trees on your property and aren’t opposed to the idea, there are several species that nuthatches seem to enjoy, including alder, American sycamore, blue spruce, cedar, oak, hickory, ash, birch, and many others. The more trees that you have in your yard, the more likely a nuthatch will visit.

hummingbird divider

Final Thoughts

The Nuthatch primarily eats insects when it can find them, but it will switch to eating seeds as the temperature drops and food becomes scarce. Sunflower seeds and peanuts are their favorites, and adding a stocked feeder can invite them to your property. You can also get these birds into your yard by installing a nesting box, and they like to visit bird baths that are low to the ground.

Featured Image Credit: Needpix

About the Author Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who contributes to a wide range of blogs covering information on computer programming, pets, birding, tools, fitness, guitars, and optics. Outside of writing, Ed is often found working in the garden or performing DIY projects in the house. Ed is also a musician, spending his time composing music for independent films or helping people repair their guitars.