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Number of species: 72

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Red-breasted Nuthatch - Sitta canadensis

While sexes are easily separated by the colour of the crown, age can be difficult to determine.  Unlike most North American passerines, HY/SY Red-breasted Nuthatches have no distinct molt limits on the wings, and tail shape/condition does not vary appreciably by age either.  Overall appearance of the wing can be used to assess age, but with caution, and many individuals cannot be reliably aged, especially in late spring or summer.

Quick Tips:

  • Examine the crown - it is black on males, but a duller dark gray on females
  • Compare the wing and the back - on AHY/ASY birds they are similarly blue-gray, while on HY/SY birds the wing tends to be tinged with some brown, but note that by late spring or summer even AHY/ASY birds can be faded and difficult to distinguish.
  • Consider the shape of the primary coverts - relatively broad and rounded on AHY/ASY individuals, but more narrow and pointed on HY/SY individuals.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory

  • Reference (6)
  • Supplemental (0)
  • Contributed (0)
Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.
Age / Sex  Image sets 
Hatch year / Male
Black cap; wing somewhat brownish-gray, contrasting with the bluish-gray back. 
Thumbnail - MG2-2650-35609-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3681.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2650-35609-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3679.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2650-35609-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3680.jpg
Date: Sep 11
Hatch year / Female
Dull dark cap; wing brownish-gray, contrasting with the bluish-gray back.
Thumbnail - MG2-2600-15211-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3684.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2600-15211-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3682.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2600-15211-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3683.jpg
Date: Oct 15
After hatch year / Male
Black cap; uniformly bluish-gray wing with bluish edging to most feathers.
Thumbnail - MG2-2600-16752-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3690.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2600-16752-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3688.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2600-16752-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3689.jpg
Date: Aug 12
After hatch year / Female
Dull dark cap; uniformly grayish wing with dull bluish edging to most feathers.
Thumbnail - MG2-1840-76970-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3687.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1840-76970-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3685.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1840-76970-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3686.jpg
Date: Aug 15
Second year / Male
Black cap; wing somewhat brownish-gray, contrasting with the bluish-gray back. 
Thumbnail - MG2-2460-40301-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3696.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2460-40301-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3694.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2460-40301-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3695.jpg
Date: Jan 28
After second year / Female
Dull dark cap; uniformly grayish wing with dull bluish edging to most feathers.
Thumbnail - MG2-1840-76970-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3693.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1840-76970-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3691.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1840-76970-Sitta_canadensis_AOU_7_52-3692.jpg
Date: Jan 12

Additional age / sex class descriptions

The following additional age / sex class descriptions were found for this species:
Age / Sex   Age / Sex class description
After second year / Male Black cap; uniformly bluish-gray wing with bluish edging to most feathers.
Juvenile / Unknown Similar to HY but with some dark speckling on head and throat; sexes may sometimes be distinguishable already by cap.
Second year / Female Dull dark cap; wing brownish-gray, contrasting with the bluish-gray back.
Number of species: 72

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