It ranges across the northern and northeastern parts of the Indian Subcontinent, existing mainly in the low-to-middle Himalayas, as well as associated mountain ranges. It is found in Bhutan, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Tibet and Thailand.
It may be identified by the buff underside, smaller beak than in Sitta cashmirensis (Kashmir nuthatch). The white on the upper tail coverts is difficult to see in the field. It has a small bill and rufous-orange underparts with unmarked bright rufous undertail-coverts.
Resident in the sub-Himalayan range from Himachal Pradesh to Arunachal Pradesh and into the South Assam Hills (Lushai Hills). It breeds from March to May in broad-leaved and mixed forest.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.