This bird’s habit of climbing upside down on tree trunks and branches easily marks it as a nuthatch. Adult upperparts are bluish gray, with a black forehead crown and nape, and white cheeks. Cap of female is gray. Adult underparts are white with buff flanks. Song is a rapid series of low-pitched nasal sounds: “whe-whe-whe-whe-whe.” The call is a nasal yank or “yank-yank” and is lower-pitched than the red-breasted nuthatch.
Similar species: The red-breasted nuthatch is an uncommon winter resident in pine forests; it has rusty underparts, has a dark eye line, and is smaller. Although the black-and-white warbler also creeps upside-down on trees, it is distinctly striped with black and white.