The bird, like other nuthatches, possesses a sharp black nail-like beak, which it uses to pound open seeds. It is a frequent visitor to feeding stations and is highly fond of sunflower seeds and suet cakes.
Their breeding habitat is mixed or deciduous woods in the United States from New Jersey west to southern Kansas and south to Florida and Texas; there is a gap in the range at high altitudes in the Appalachian Mountains where they are replaced by their otherwise more northern relative, the black-capped chickadee. They nest in a hole in a tree; the pair excavates the nest, using a natural cavity or sometimes an old woodpecker nest. They may interbreed with black-capped chickadees where the ranges overlap, which can make identification difficult.They are permanent residents, not usually moving south even in severe winter weather.