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Quick facts

Common names: nuthatch, European nuthatch

Scientific name: Sitta europaea

Family: Sittidae (nuthatches)

Habitat: broadleaved woodland, sometimes visits gardens

Diet: insects and invertebrates, seeds and nuts

Predators: sparrowhawks take adults; chicks and eggs vulnerable to a range of predators

Origin: native

What do nuthatches look like?

The nuthatch is a distinctive bird with an orange breast, blue-grey wings and compact build. It has a long, powerful beak and a black streak running across its eye. It has a characteristically large head and short tail, and is larger than a robin, but smaller than a blackbird.

Nuthatch close up eating nuts

Credit: David Savory / Alamy Stock Photo

What do nuthatches eat?

Much of the nuthatch’s summer diet is made up of invertebrates, which its plucks from tree trunks and branches. In winter, the species feeds on seeds and nuts. Surplus nuts are hidden in gaps on tree bark to be eaten later. The nuthatch’s habit of hacking at these nuts to retrieve them from their hiding place is thought to have earned the species its name.

Did you know?

Nuthatches rarely travel far from the area in which they were hatched.

How do nuthatches breed?

Nuthatches normally nest in tree cavities, often occupying old woodpecker holes. Typically, six to eight eggs are laid, with the chicks hatching after around two weeks. Fledging normally occurs after around three to four weeks.

Nuthatch hanging on mossy branch

Credit: Calum Dickson / Alamy Stock Photo

Where do nuthatches live?

Nuthatches favour broadleaved woodland with large, old trees that provide plenty of space for nesting and opportunities for foraging. Parks and gardens may also be occupied. Nuthatches can be found across England and Wales, but are absent from Ireland. The species is becoming increasingly common in Scotland, with milder winters allowing its range to expand north.

Did you know?

Nuthatches are often most common in areas with a large number of mature oak trees.

Signs and spotting tips

Look out for nuthatches scuttling up and down trees. They will often descend trunks head first when searching for food. Listen out for its ‘dwip dwip’ call. Nuthatches will often visit bird feeders in gardens that are close to suitable habitat.

Nuthatch song

Audio: Nick Talbot / xeno-canto.org

Nuthatch in flight preparing to land

Credit: Paul Hobson / naturepl.com

Threats and conservation

The UK’s nuthatch population is doing well, growing by an estimated 250% since the 1970s. However, as a woodland specialist, the felling of woods and trees threatens to reduce the species’ habitat.

Did you know?

Nuthatches will sometimes plaster mud around the entrance of their nesting hole. This makes it smaller and less accessible to competitors and predators.