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Piedmont birding


Brown-headed nuthatches need new homes

By Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff writes on birding in the Piedmont.

If you have brown-headed nuthatches routinely patronizing your feeders, then I am sure they are one of your favorite visitors. These tiny birds are delightfully active with their constant back-and-forth to the feeders, all the while giving their characteristic squeaky toy calls.

The nuthatches are most at home in pinewoods but will stray for short distances to nest sites and feeders. Even a woodlot with just a few pines is enough to make them take notice and move in.

Brown-headed nuthatches are true Southerners. Their entire range is restricted to the Southern United States. They need our help, too. Dead pine trees, crucial for successful nest sites, are often removed. The species also shares many habitats with Eastern bluebirds, but the nuthatch cannot compete for nest sites with Eastern bluebirds. The bluebirds win out.

Audubon North Carolina has designated the brown-headed nuthatch a Species of Concern in the Piedmont and has implemented a nest box program to help them. The organization’s goal is to erect 10,000 nest boxes across the state. This effort is gaining traction as many conservation groups across the state have pledged support.

This is also a great opportunity for schools or similar groups to participate in a worthwhile conservation endeavor. Corvian Community School in the Mallard Creek area recently had a workday when nest boxes were installed on the school grounds and the adjacent Mallard Creek Greenway.

Any nest box design approved by the North American Bluebird Society is appropriate for brown-headed nuthatches. The one very important difference is that the opening must be only 1 inch in diameter. If you have bluebird boxes and want to convert them, it’s easy. Simply fashion an adapter to reduce the entrance hole size, or purchase however many you need from a local wild bird store. You can also purchase a ready-made brown-headed nuthatch box from Audubon North Carolina for $15. Audubon North Carolina has received a grant to help get boxes to schools and other nonprofit groups.

Visit for more information on these tiny dynamos. For information on how to get boxes, email

Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont:
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