Finding Brown-Headed Nuthatches in Maryland

Last Updated on April 3, 2021 by Nancie

Brown-Headed Nuthatch we found near Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center's observation platform
Brown-Headed Nuthatch

Looking to find Brown-Headed Nuthatches in Maryland? This past weekend, Jim and I went out in search of one. Now, if you live in the southeastern US, you might be thinking, “Ho, hum. I see those all the time. What’s the big deal?” But here in central Maryland, it is not a nuthatch we see often. They don’t stop by our house and aren’t usually found in our local woods. So we had to go just a little further afield to find one.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

White-Breasted Nuthatch at feeder
White-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Breasted & Red-Breasted Nuthatches

The nuthatch we commonly see here in Maryland is the White-Breasted Nuthatch. At least two live in our yard. They typically show up a couple times a day year-round to quickly snag seeds out of the seed feeders or a peanut split from a caged feeder. They also can be found creeping up and down tree trunks with their distinctive yank-yank-yank-yank-yank call.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch eating sunflower heart at feeder
Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Earlier this winter, we also had a Red-Breasted Nuthatch show up fairly regularly. They aren’t always found in this area, but in irruption years, they come further south, so we are always delighted to have them visit our yard. Their yank-yank yank-yank call is more nasal.

Finding The Nearest Brown-Headed Nuthatch

But we are just a little bit outside of the Brown-Headed Nuthatch’s usual range. Checking eBird’s species map however, we could see they can be found just on the other side of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge. They have recently been showing up pretty regularly at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, so we headed there.

Prepping To See The Nuthatch

When searching out a particular new-to-you bird, it helps to do your homework. Obviously, you want to know what the bird looks like so you’ll recognize it. That is where bird identification books, smart phone apps or online sites like All About Birds or Audubon are helpful.

When you look a bird up, pay attention to what both the male and female look like as they can sometimes be quite different. Many bird books and apps visually default to the male, which can make ID’ing females more  challenging!

Bird apps and websites can often also provide recordings of a bird’s typical call and songs. Often while Jim and I are driving to a birding spot, we’ll listen to recordings on our phone birding apps. This gives us a better chance of recognizing the bird’s voice if we are lucky enough to hear it. We also read about the bird’s behavior and where we might expect to find them.

Brown Headed Nuthatch
Brown Headed Nuthatch

Finding Brown-Headed Nuthatches

Brown-Headed Nuthatches remind me a bit of a patchwork quilt. They are brown on the top of their head and buff white on their underparts, while the rest is a blue-grey color. (Males and females look similar.)

Like other nuthatches, they can be found hopping head-first up and down tree trunks and branches. Brown-Headed Nuthatches prefer open southern pine forests, especially the upper parts of the trees. They sound just like squeaky toys. They eat insects and pine seeds.

So, with this in mind, when we got to CBEC, we kept our eyes open for pine trees, which can be found in many parts of the property. Ironically, when we found the nuthatches, it was when we had gone up onto an observation platform to check out ducks out in the water of Marshy Creek.

While standing on the platform, we heard the squeaky voices of a pair of Brown-Headed Nuthatches chattering to each other in the upper parts of the trees right near the platform. Our vantage point gave us a very nice view of these cute little birds. They didn’t seem particularly bothered by people standing there checking them out and went about their business quite happily.

So our mission was a success. While not an exotic bird, it was a bird we hadn’t personally seen before. So it was exciting to find them and to watch them for a little while.

Do you have Brown-Headed Nuthatches in your area? Please feel welcome to share your experiences with these little birds in the comments below.


Learn More About Brown-Headed Nuthatches

Brown-Headed Nuthatches on All About Birds

Brown-Headed Nuthatches on Audubon

Brown-headed Nuthatches Return to Missouri’s Ozark Mountains After 100 Years Nuthatches (A really interesting All About Birds/Living Bird article about returning Brown-Headed Nuthatches to Mark Twain National Forest)

Birding at Patuxent Research Refuge

Another Weekend at Patuxent Research Refuge

American Coots at Black Hill Regional Park

Birding at Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center

Snow Buntings Visit Baltimore

Birding Field Trips Beyond Maryland

Bombay Hook Fall Birding Hook

Birding at Magee Marsh

Photographing Birds at Magee Marsh

Birds Seen in Mexico

More Birds of Mexico

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4 thoughts on “Finding Brown-Headed Nuthatches in Maryland

  1. Wow what a beautiful bird! I really enjoying learning about the brown-headed Nuthatches, great post & photos too. Also, thanks so much for the links

  2. These are such wonderful, engaging birds. Up here in western MA, we don’t see Brown-headed Nuthatches at all, so we’ve also had to go hunting for them. Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware has been a reliable spot for us, and is at the northern edge of their range.

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