British Bird of the Month: Nuthatch

Member of Sittidae (Nuthatch) family


The nuthatch, unlike woodpeckers and treecreeper, climbs up, down and around the tree trunk and branches using its powerful toes. They forage for food hidden in or under bark by climbing along tree trunks and branches, sometimes upside-down. Their pale blue back and pink front make them very distinctive from any other garden bird.

Nuthatches are resident in central and southern England and their population has increased rapidly since the mid-1970s and their range has expanded northwards into Scotland. The reason for these changes is unknown.

Nuthatches have a wide range of calls. The commonest is a loud ringing “chit chit chit-chit”, and it is usually this call that attracts you to their presence.

What They Eat & What You Can Offer Them

The Nuthatch feeds mainly on nuts and seeds, such as acorns, beechmast and hazel nuts, in the autumn and winter, but insects, such as spiders and beetles in the summer.

They are increasingly visiting gardens for nuts and seeds. They are surprisingly agile and can easily use traditional peanut feeders.

Where They Live & How You Can Help Them

The nuthatch will either use a hole in a tree or wall, or take over an abandoned nest. The hole may be reduced in size by plastering it with mud. The nest is made from bark chips and dead leaves.

Nest boxes with a large hole, about 35 mm diameter, may be used.

The eggs vary considerably in number from 4-13 and take about 16 days to incubate. The female incubates the eggs by herself, but both parents feed the young after they have hatched.

And Finally……..

The nuthatch’s habit of wedging a large food item in a crevice and then hacking at it with their strong bills gives them their English name.

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