Friday, July 11, 2014

Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

(13 cm.) Large head; short tail; grey upperparts; whitish-brown underparts; black eye line

The Eurasian Nuthatch belongs to a family of small, interesting and rather odd birds, “Sittidae”, the family of nuthatches. The name, “nuthatch” is derived from their habit of drilling acorns and nuts into the trunks of trees where they can be opened by “hacking” them with their bills. All nuthatches have very large heads, short tails, and powerful feet and claws for gripping trees.

Nuthatches are usually seen climbing along the branches and trunks of trees like a woodpecker; however, they often climb down a tree headfirst which is something a woodpecker would never attempt.

The Eurasian Nuthatch is the most common and widespread of the nuthatch family. It is sometimes simply referred to as “the nuthatch” due to its familiarity with bird-lovers. This species is found is found throughout Europe and Asia, except Ireland. In China, it is a common bird in many parts of its range which is limited to the eastern half of the country.

This species is found in deciduous forests where it can find the acorns and nuts which it so loves. It also consumes insects which it finds during its foraging missions along the trunks and branches of deciduous trees. At times, this bird will feed on the ground. During winter, the Eurasian Nuthatch will visit feeding stations that offer seeds, often bullying other birds they may encounter there.

Due to its varied diet that is not solely dependant on insects, this species is non-migratory, and like other non-migratory bird species, its fall and winter wanderings will only be motivated by winter food shortages in its summer range.

The Eurasian Nuthatch nests in a hole or crevice that is lined with grass or tree bark. The female will deposit 5-8 eggs in the nest.

This species is quite noisy, and can often be heard to repeat its trademark call, the loud and sharp, “twet, twet, twet” At other times it can be heard to whistle a rather melodious song. It is, after all, despite its rather strange appearance, a songbird.
Photo by Luc Viatour


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