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Key Information

Scientific Name: Sitta europaea

Bird Family: Nuthatches

UK Breeding Birds: 220,000 territories

UK Conservation Status: Green

The Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) is a charming and agile bird found throughout the United Kingdom. Recognisable by its distinctive blue-grey upperparts and contrasting black eyeliner, this bird is well known for its acrobatic climbing abilities, often descending tree trunks headfirst in search of food.

What does a nuthatch look like?

By observing their distinct colouration and behaviour, you can easily identify Eurasian Nuthatches. They are roughly the same size as a great tit, measuring around 14cm in length and has a wingspan of around 22.5-27cm that has subtle white markings.

Nuthatches have a distinctive blue-grey upper part, while the underparts display pale orange tones. The crown and nape of the neck are bluish-grey, and there is a noticeable black stripe through the eye, creating a "masked" appearance.

What do nuthatches eat?

Eurasian Nuthatches have a diverse diet that includes a variety of food items such as insects, seeds, nuts, suet, berries and tree sap. Their feeding habits are adapted to their arboreal lifestyle, as they often forage on tree trunks and branches. Their foraging behaviour involves climbing down tree trunks headfirst and exploring bark surfaces for food or hidden prey. This unique behaviour sets them apart from many other bird species. Overall, the Eurasian nuthatch's diet is opportunistic and varies based on seasonal availability and the abundance of different food sources in their habitat.

What to feed nuthatches?

Nuthatches will eagerly visit bird feeders in gardens that consistently provide a reliable source of seeds, nuts, and suet. Feeding them various bird-friendly foods can entice them to become regular guests in your outdoor space. Below are some recommendations on what to feed nuthatch birds.

Nuthatch feeders

Nuthatches are well adapted to foraging on the trunks and branches of trees. They use their strong bills and claws to probe and pry into bark crevices, and they use a similar approach to bird feeders. Nuthatches can hang easily on mesh feeders without the need for perches. Below are a few examples of bird feeders that nuthatches will use.

Where do nuthatches nest?

Nuthatches are cavity-nesting birds, meaning they build their nests in protected spaces or use readily made ones. They often select natural tree hollows or cavities for nesting. These can be created by decay, woodpecker activity, or other natural processes. Nuthatches are also known to nest behind loose bark on trees.

Nuthatch nest box

Nuthatches will also utilise nest boxes or birdhouses located in gardens. The nuthatch nest box needs to have an entrance hole no smaller than 32mm (34mm is the ideal size). Below are some bird boxes nuthatches will readily use.

When do nuthatches nest?

Eurasian nuthatches typically breed from April to July, with the peak of nesting activity occurring in May and June. They'll start exploring potential nesting sites as early as late winter. This is also the prime time to engage in courtship behaviours, and pairs establish territories.

The actual nest construction usually takes place in late March to early April. The female is primarily responsible for building the nest, which is often located in tree hollows, bark crevices, or nest boxes.

How many eggs do nuthatches lay?

Nuthatches will typically lay their eggs from mid-April to early May. Clutches usually consist of 6-9 eggs and the female incubates them for about two weeks.

After the eggs hatch, both parents contribute to feeding the chicks. The parents provide them with a protein-rich diet of insects and small invertebrates to assist them in their development.

The nuthatch chicks fledge (leave the nest) about 18-20 days after hatching. After fledging, the parents continue to care for the young birds, teaching them to forage and fend for themselves.

Are nuthatches rare?

Eurasian Nuthatches are not considered rare in the United Kingdom. They are a resident breeding bird with a stable and relatively widespread population of 220,000 breeding bird territories. These birds can be found in woodlands, parks, and gardens nationwide and are often observed near bird feeders in gardens.

Do nuthatches migrate?

UK Nuthatches are typically resident birds and not known for migratory behaviour, meaning they generally stay within their breeding range throughout the entire year. While some local movements may be related to food availability and nesting site selection, nuthatches do not undertake long-distance migrations like other bird species. During the non-breeding season, which is usually in the colder months, nuthatches may become more nomadic, exploring different areas in search of food.