Watch - and listen - out for noisy nuthatch

In November, keep an eye on the garden and you may spot the Eurasian nuthatch (Sitta Europaea), says biodiversity and bird protection charity LPO

19 October 2016
By Samantha David

The Eurasian nuthatch, (sittelle torchpot in French) is blue-grey with a black eye-stripe, a short tail, and strong feet. Its characteristic behaviour of wedging a nut into a crevice and then hacking at it with their long beaks is probably what gave rise to their name - even though the birds mainly eat insects, caterpillars and beetles, supplementing their diet with nuts and seeds in the winter months. It can also be recognised by its loud "dwip" call.

Their favourite habitat is deciduous or mixed woodland, especially where there are oak trees. Pairs mate for life and remain in their own territory. They nest in tree holes, often old woodpecker nests, and if the entrance to the hole to too wide, the female will reduce it by plastering it with mud. She will also quite often coat the inside with mud too. The base of the nest is often made of wood chips or pine needles.

They lay clutches of between six and nine red-speckled white eggs and incubate them for up to 18 days. The youngsters fledge about three weeks after hatching. Both parents feed the chicks, even after they have fledged, and they only raise one brood per year. 

It hoards food all year round, and can be seen walking up and down tree trunks foraging for food. It is quick to spot a bird-table and enjoys fatty items provided by humans, as well as birdseed.

The main threats to the Eurasian nuthatch are sparrowhawks, although predators also include owls and weasels. Fragmentation of woodland is also reducing their habitat, as is pollution and heavy use of chemicals, but currently numbers are not declining enough to give conservation organisations cause for concern.

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