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When Do Nuthatches Mate?

When Do Nuthatches Mate?

Nuthatches are a common bird species found in the US. These upside-down birds are a delight for avian lovers. So, if you like these tiny creatures, you would want to know about their mating habits. This article is all you need if that’s the case. Let’s find out when nuthatches mate!

When do nuthatches mate?

Nuthatches have a unique mating pattern. Also, their courtship habits vary.

White-breasted nuthatches start mating from January. Red-breasted nuthatches mate during April through August. The mating season of other nuthatches varies between April to July on an average.

Depending on the species, here is a breakdown of the mating time of nuthatches and their behaviors during such times. Have a look below!

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatches can start their courtship and mating rituals as early as January. When the male bird starts singing, the female bird may fly over and stop while she perches nearby.

The two will eventually part ways and feed separately for the rest of the day. Everybody rests for the night at a different nest hole after the day.

Additionally, these birds engage in mate-feeding, where one bird feeds its partners during breeding. A piece of food is collected by the male bird, who then flies to the female and deposits it in her bill.

Red-breasted nuthatch

April through August is the breeding season for red-breasted nuthatches. Beginning in the winter or spring, they form breeding couples and remain together for at least a year. Throughout the breeding season, and sometimes the entire year if the cone harvest is good, each pair guards a territory. 

Males engage in courtship behaviors like lifting their head and tail, drooping their wings, and fluffing their back feathers to entice females. With his back to the female, a man sways back and forth while singing. Males can sing up to 50 times per minute while courting, usually from the tops of trees and probable nest trees. During courtship, they additionally provide food to the female.

Brown-headed nuthatch

Every year, brown-headed nuthatches reproduce either once or twice. The time between March and July is when they breed. As cooperative breeders, brown-headed nuthatches raise their young in groups of two to five adult birds per nest. The group consists of the parents and the “helper” birds who do not reproduce. Non-breeding birds assist with preening, feeding, nest excavation, and nest protection.

Pygmy nuthatch

Courtship and the excavation of nesting cavities throughout the whole range may start as early as mid-March and last until June. In the case of pygmy nuthatches, courtship feeding—the male feeding the female before and after copulation, during nest-building and egg-laying, as well as throughout incubation—occurs regularly.

One of North America’s few cooperatively reproducing passerines, the pygmy nuthatch is special in this regard. One to three male helpers, typically one-year-old offspring or other family members, are present in one-third of breeding pairs. Helpers assist with nest defense and provide food for incubating females, nestlings, and fledglings.

Eurasian nuthatch

The breeding season among Eurasian nuthatches lasts from April through May. The monogamous, cavity-nesting Eurasian Nuthatch is aggressively territorial. It uses a natural hollow in a tree or an abandoned woodpecker’s nest as its home instead of digging the hole.

By the end of winter, courtship behavior begins. The male Eurasian nuthatch performs courtship displays by bowing deeply, raising its head, spreading its tail, and drooping wings. Males also engage in a lot of courting and feeding of females.

Now, you have an in-depth understanding of when and how various nuthatch species mate. Let’s understand how many times nuthatches mate in a year. Stay tuned!

Do nuthatches breed more than once a year?

The breeding season for nuthatches starts in late April, with each clutch containing four to thirteen eggs. Most breeding pairs will produce one to two broods annually. The eggs are roughly 20 mm by 15 mm in size, smooth, glossy, and white with reddish-brown markings.

The young nestlings are fed by both bird parents for 23 to 25 days before they leave the nest after only the female has incubated the eggs for 14 to 18 days. The young rarely venture very far from their nest. They are curious woodland birds that keep to themselves when nesting.

When do nuthatches lay eggs?

Every nuthatch pair has a different egg laying period depending on their mating pattern. However, you can evaluate a precise range of months when you can find eggs or nestlings in their nests.

This section will help you know when you can expect nuthatches to lay eggs based on various species. So, let’s get started!

1. Red-breasted nuthatches

Red-breasted Nuthatches lay eggs from April to June across their range. Most eggs are deposited in the red-breasted nuthatch nests between May and June. It takes almost 24 days before young birds leave the nest and become considerably easier to observe. 

2. White-breasted nuthatches

Every brood of white-breasted nuthatches has 5–9, occasionally 10 (usually 7-8) eggs laid from March to June, typically mid-April before leaves are on trees, through May.

3. Brown-headed nuthatches

The brown-headed nuthatches’ egg-laying season lasts around two months, and 90% of all clutches are laid before May. Around March, the brown-headed nuthatches start breeding quickly. The brown-headed nuthatches have occasionally been observed to renest and produce second broods in a year.

4. Pygmy nuthatches

The egg-laying season for pygmy nuthatches lasts from April through June. Female Pygmy Nuthatches lay their eggs during the early morning and throughout the day. Pygmy nuthatches lay white eggs that are spotted with reddish-brown or chestnut-colored dots. The females cover the eggs with nesting materials until the complete clutch is laid, but they do not incubate the eggs until all of the eggs have been laid.

5. Eurasian nuthatches

Between May and June, Eurasian nuthatches lay their eggs. The female lays five to nine white eggs with little reddish streaks. She carries the eggs for 13 to 18 days before caring for the chicks.


That’s all about the breeding and egg-laying patterns of various nuthatch species. Now you know when these unique birds mate and lay eggs. So, you have the idea of when you can find the broods in their nest and observe little nestlings grow. Also, you can provide nest boxes during their mating phase to allow them to make nests on your property.