Nuthatch

Sitta europaea

14cm

Appearance

The Nuthatch is a slightly stout bird which is bluish grey on its back, buffish with an orange tinge underneath, and the cheeks are white; there’s a thick black strip that travels from the back of the head and through the eye. The bill is black and needle-like, the legs are short and strong, the neck is stumpy, and the tail is quite short and appears rigid. Males and females closely resemble each other, although males may have a more vivid reddish-orange tinge on the flanks. Juveniles resemble adults, but they lack the orangey tinge, and the eye-stripe is not as developed.

Habitat

Prefers deciduous woods, especially park areas that are host to older trees.

Character

The Nuthatch is distinctive, as it may move down tree trunks head-first. Though it is not shy to use its voice, this species can be rather difficult to track down. It regularly feeds from the underside of branches, but also may feed at ground level. Tree-holes are used for nests, and mud is stacked around the entrance to the hole to make it harder to access for predators.

Food

Summer diet includes insects and spiders. Autumn and winter sees the Nuthatch eating hazelnuts, acorns, yew seeds and pine cones; it uses its bill to open nuts or seeds.

Breeding

Female lays between 6 and 8 eggs during April or May and she incubates the clutch for approximately 16-17 days. Both parents tend to the young until they leave the nest in about 23-24 days; a second brood may be raised.

Population

When in the region, it is uncharacteristic for the Nuthatch to stray far from the nest in which it was born. Approximately 220 000 pairs live in Britain, but there are no Nuthatches in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Listen for the call of the Nuthatch while walking in woodland, but be aware the species is rarely found in conifer; the birds are most common in Wales and in the south and central parts of England.

Voice

The Nuthatch has a year-round territorial call that sounds like ‘twit, twit, twit-twit’. The song is piercing, with a selection of high and low pitch notes, and a song most likely heard in spring sounds like ‘pee, pee, pee’.
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