Nebraska Ornithologists' Union



Larry Einemann

Date of this Version



“First Documented Nebraska Sighting of Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)” from Nebraska Bird Review (December 2011) 79(4).


Copyright 2011 Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Used by permission.


Monday, November 8, 2010, was an unusually warm (upper 70s) autumn day for Lincoln, Nebraska, with no clouds and a wind from the southwest. I went to Holmes Lake Park in southeast Lincoln to scan for late migrating waterfowl and then to check the stand of conifers for the arrival of winter migrants. Around 11 A.M. I was attracted to a feeding group of six Black-capped Chickadees and three Red-breasted Nuthatches in the 30- to 40-year-old pines and Douglas firs north of Hyde Observatory. I noticed a differently patterned nuthatch in the group. I had seen a Pygmy Nuthatch several times in Lincoln. This nuthatch, however, was a Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla). It was about the same size as the Red-breasted Nuthatches it was feeding with in the pines. However, it appeared plumper and not as sleek. Noticeable upon seeing it was the rich brown crown and a dark eye line (not noticeable unless at close range). It was pale buff below. The short tail was obvious along with the white nape spot. The back and wings were gray with the primaries lighter gray. The throat and cheek were white. It was not very vocal; only snippets of sound were heard that could have been nuthatch utterances. Quite a few birders (100+) from around Nebraska and surrounding states made the nuthatch pilgrimage to Holmes. Birders kept this up for at least a couple of months. I saw the Brown-headed Nuthatch on the following dates: November 8, 9, 10, 13, 17, and 21 and December 5 and 28, 2010, and on January 5 and 14, 2011. Four extended searches of the area in February produced no further sightings. Lincoln is one of the few places in North America where all four North American species of nuthatches (White-breasted, Red-breasted, Pygmy, and Brown-headed) have been seen. Holmes Lake Park is where I can say that I have seen and heard all four species of nuthatches in the last two years.