Crown is black in males, generally grayish in females. Both sexes have white face and breast. Back is bluish-gray, wing coverts have white edging. Undertail coverts and sides rusty - intensity of this color may vary. Tail is short, with white corners visible in flight. Females duller and grayer overall than males. Bill is nearly as long as head and slightly upturned. Like other nuthatches, this species characteristically walks head downward on large branches and trunks, probing crevices in bark for its seed and insect prey (Pravosudov and Grubb 1993). See Wood (1992) for information on identification of sexes in eastern North America (females most closely resemble males in the southeastern U.S., but all can identified correctly in the hand).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
A common resident of deciduous forests in North America. Also in mixed deciduous and coniferous forests. Favors woodland edges over more central locations, prefering open areas. Over much of its range the presence of some oaks seems to be a requirement (Pravosudov and Grubb 1993).
Feeds on a variety of insects and plant matter (acorns, nuts, etc.) (Pravosudov and Grubb 1993).
Female builds the nest. Nests in natural cavities or old woodpecker holes. Clutch sizes range from 5 to 9 eggs (Pravosudov and Grubb 1993). Near Fortine, flying young were seen on June 28. Eggs were seen on June 17 and hatching was observed on June 25. Egg dates are probably similar to those found in Colorado: May 13 to June 25.