Eurasian Nuthatches aka Wood Nuthatches

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Eurasian Nuthatches aka Wood Nuthatches

Nuthatches

Information provided by: Avian Contributor: Jeannine Miesle



Distribution

The Chestnut-vented Nuthatch (Sitta nagaensis) has an extensive, stable range throughout Europe, European Russia, and the Oriental regions of Tibet, through south-central Vietnam.

Its population has been estimated at more than 7.5 million pairs.

Although this species of passerine is non-migratory, first-year birds will disperse in all directions, travelling distances up to 460 km (287.5 miles).


Habitat

The Chestnut-vented Nuthatch prefers broad-leaved and mixed forests for breeding. In northern areas, however, it builds its nest solely in coniferous trees. In European lowlands, mature or over-mature, even decaying deciduous trees are selected, particularly those which are tall and have large trunks and well spread crowns.

Some choose living areas in more open woodland, such as parks and neighborhoods. Since these birds make only short flights, the trees must not be too widely spaced.

In some countries, such as Britain and other European sites, the birds prefer oak, beech and sweet chestnut. Unafraid of human habitats, it is a frequent visitor at neighborhood feeding stations.


Description

This species of Nuthatch is a medium-sized, energetic and vocal bird. Its body is compact and its tail short. It balances on muscular feet and legs which are set a little farther back on the body.

Its upperparts are mainly blue-grey, while the underparts are buff and/or white. It has a broad, black eye stripe. The flanks are orange-brown, with similarly colored patches on the undertail coverts. Birds residing in west, central and southeast Europe have somewhat different markings. The lower part of the throat is buff, and the breast and belly are buff with orange tinges; these blend into the flank which is marked with orange and chestnut shadings.

In Scandinavia and European Russia, the nominate species has chiefly white underparts.

The Chestnut-vented Nuthatch reaches 12.5 to 15 cm (5-5.5 in) in length and has a wingspan of 23-27 cm.


Breeding

Mature Nuthatches pair bond for life and remain permanently in their territories once they have produced young. The first-year birds will disperse in the summer after they have achieved independence and again in the spring. This dispersal is only by those who had not found a mate over the winter; in that case, they will leave their territories to search for a mate.

The Chestnut-vented Nuthatches generally take over abandoned Woodpecker cavities in trees. Larch and poplar seem to be their favorites. The females are assigned the chore of building the nests, but occasionally the male will assist by bringing nesting materials to her. She will narrow the entrances by plastering them up with mud around the edges. Then she will use larch and birch bark flakes or dry leaves to construct the thick base of the nest (4-10 cm). Once she is satisfied with the nest, she will lay a clutch of 4 to 8 eggs and incubate them by herself for 13 to 18 days. Nuthatches often use the same hole for more than one year.

The chicks will fledge at around 23 days.


Feeding

These Nuthatches feed on invertebrates and seeds, the latter moreso in autumn and winter.

They forage for food on all parts of the tree, on the ground and in the air, capturing the insects on the wing. They will then jam the hard-shelled insect prey and seeds into crevices in the bark of trees. These caches will be sought again over the wintertime.



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