Common nuthatch

The common nuthatch is a small bird from the passerine order, it is part of the large family of nuthatch. International name according to the determinant of K. Linnaeus — Sitta europaea, given 1758

Origin and Description

Photo: Common Nuthatch

Photo: Nuthatch

This small bird is found everywhere in the forests of Europe, Asia and in the north of the African continent. Like other members of the family and genus, which includes the common nuthatch, it has subspecies that differ in color and size, depending on the habitat. The appearance of birds and behavior are similar, which allows all twenty subspecies to be considered closely related.

Fossilized remains of the ancestors of these birds are rare. They are found in Italy and belong to the Lower Miocene – this is Sitta senogalliensis, an extinct subspecies. More recent examples of this family have been found in France.

Video: Common Nuthatch

Recently, at the beginning of this century in German Bavaria, parts of a bird from the early Miocene were discovered in castra caves, this species was given the name & # 8212; Certhiops rummeli, correlating it with the superfamily Certhioidea, which unites together with nuthatches, pikas and wall climbers. These remains are considered the earliest examples of the progenitors of this group of birds.

A compact dense bird with fluffy plumage is found from the very outskirts of Western Europe to the Far East coast, capturing: the Caucasus, Western Asia, northeast China. The habitat extends through the forests from Scandinavia (except the northern part) throughout Europe.

Sitta europaea are not found in southern Spain and Ukraine. In Russia, the common nuthatch is found from the coast of the White Sea, everywhere south in the European part to the southern borders of the Saratov and Voronezh regions. The outlines of the range pass through the Southern Urals, along the Omsk Region and the Altai Territory, reach Primorye.

In Asian countries, the boundaries of habitat extend to Israel, Indochina and the Himalayas. There is a common nuthatch in China, Korea and Japan, in Taiwan. In Africa, the bird is found in a small area in the Atlas Mountains.

Appearance and Features

Photo: Common nuthatch, or coachman

Photo: Common nuthatch, or coachman

Adult male common nuthatch reaches a length of about 13 -14 cm with a wingspan of about 23 – 26 cm, weighing 16 -28 g. Females are slightly smaller than males.

The upper part of the plumage of tops, as these birds are popularly called, is painted in blue-gray tones, they differ in saturation, depending on their habitats. From the beak, through the eye towards the “ear” and the wing is a bright black stripe. Below the throat, abdomen and undertail has a light shade, which differs slightly in birds in different habitats from the nominate one. In northern individuals, the abdomen is whitish, the sides and undertail are reddish.

The Arctic subspecies is distinct from its relatives. It is larger, with a white forehead and a shorter eyeline. There are more white markings in the tail and on the wings. Birds of Western Europe, the Caucasus, Western Asia with a red belly, an undertail of an ocher shade and a white neck. In eastern China, these birds have a rufous undertail.

The undertail also has white feathers, creating a colorful background. Of the ten tail feathers of the wing, the outermost ones have white markings. In white-breasted subspecies, the underparts are creamy and the eye stripe is dark brown, the transition from one color to another is blurred.

In females, the upper part is slightly paler. Juveniles are similar to females, but with duller plumage and paler legs. The beak of the birds is elongated, powerful gray with a dark top, the eyes are dark brown, the legs are short gray or brown.

Once a year, these birds molt immediately after breeding, from late May to October. It lasts 80 days, but in individuals living in the northern regions, these periods are more compressed and run from June to mid-September.

Where does the nuthatch live?

Photo: Nuthatch Bird

Photo: Nuthatch bird

In Eurasia, the habitat zone of these birds from the British to the Japanese islands to the north reaches 64-69 ° N. sh. areas of the forest-tundra, and in the south to 55 ° N. sh. Individual migratory birds were recorded in Lebanon, on the Channel Islands.

The favorite habitat is the forest, but the bird can also settle in forest park areas and city parks with the presence of large, old trees that provide birds with food, and also allow find nesting sites in hollows. In the mountains, these are pine and spruce forests. In the European part of the range, it is found in broad-leaved and mixed forests, giving preference to oak, hornbeam, and beech.

In Russia, it is more common in spruce forests, cedar forests, in the south of Siberia it can settle in rocky places, in the southern steppe zones it is found in forest belts. In Morocco, the favorite breeds of nuthatch are: oak, Atlas cedar, fir. In Mongolia, he chose the dwarf juniper.

In the southern regions, it is found in mountainous areas covered with forests:

  • Switzerland at an altitude of 1200 m;
  • Austria, Turkey, Middle East, Central Asia – 1800 m;
  • Japan – 760 — 2100 m;
  • Taiwan – 800 -3300 m.

These are sedentary birds, they do not like to migrate, especially fearing water barriers, but in lean years they can reach the limits of the northern regions of Sweden and Finland, remaining there for subsequent breeding. The Arctic subspecies Sitta europaea sometimes migrates to more southern and eastern regions for the winter. Inhabitants of the East Siberian taiga can be found in Korea in winter.

What does the common nuthatch eat?

Photo: Common Nuthatch in Russia

Photo: Common Nuthatch in Russia

Omnivorous the bird feeds on plant and animal food, depending on the season.

During the feeding period, in the summer, insects, adults and larvae predominate in its menu:

  • butterflies;
  • spiders;
  • stoneflies;
  • beetles;
  • camels;
  • flies;
  • sawflies;
  • bugs.

All this is caught on the fly and on tree trunks. Less often, birds can seek out food on the surface of the earth. Moving along the trunk and branches of trees, they look out for insects, they can peel off the bark with their beak, looking for pest larvae under it, but they never become like woodpeckers and do not hammer wood.

From the second half of the summer season and in autumn, the diet of pichugs begins to be replenished with plant seeds. Especially nuthatches love nuts of beech, ash, acorns, hazel. Siberian subspecies are adapted to pine nuts and elfin pine nuts, eat larch, pine, and spruce seeds. These nimble birds insert strong nuts into crevices of the bark or stones and split them with their sharp and powerful beak, inserting it into the crevices. These birds love to eat berries of hawthorn, elderberry, bird cherry.

The nuthatches begin to stock up in the summer. They hide nuts, seeds of plants, dead insects in inconspicuous places, masking them with moss, pieces of bark, lichen. Such stocks help the birds survive in the winter, nuthatch can find them in 3-4 months, even feed the chicks from the remaining stocks. But such pantries are used for food only when there is no other food. Individuals that have collected good supplies are more likely to survive.

Interesting fact: Observations by ornithologists have shown that where beech seeds are the main part of the diet, the survival of adult birds depends little on the yield of nuts. Young birds in lean years die of starvation in autumn and during migrations, in search of food. The same pattern is observed where hazel hazel is the main product.

In city parks, in suburban areas, you can often find nuthatches on feeders. They take cereals, grains, sunflower seeds, lard, bread, cheese. Moreover, if you watch them, it becomes clear that the birds not only eat, but also carry away food in reserve, arriving several times for a new portion of grain. Birds visit slaughterhouses, feeding on offal and waste there.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Nuthatch bird

Photo: Nuthatch bird

These birds do not form flocks, but willingly join other birds in winter. Moreover, if two nuthatch suddenly meet, they instantly fly away in different directions. Each individual has its own territory, which is constantly guarded. Young people are looking for new habitats and settled by the end of summer, but the constant selection and consolidation of their site is carried out in the spring. Couples remain faithful to each other for life. In nature, nuthatches live up to ten years, but the average duration is 3-4 years.

Interesting fact: This brisk bird moves along tree trunks like an acrobat, equally dexterous, both up and down. upside down, as if crawling over it, from which it got its name.

For movement, the bird uses sharp claws that dig into the bark of a tree. The nuthatch does not rely on the tail as a support, like a woodpecker. The bird’s voice can be heard especially often in the forest or park areas at the end of winter and the beginning of spring, at the time of the mating season. In a calm state, when the pichuga is busy looking for food, you can hear a gentle whistle from it: the repeated sounds of “tew” (“fue”), as well as “tssi” or “tsi”. The iridescent trill sounds more beautiful, reminiscent of the repeated repetition of “tuy”. The cries of “tsoch” serve as a warning of danger.

In the spring during mating season, birds may leave their territories, singing songs and displaying themselves to their relatives. The sedentary way of life and the division of territories suggests that young birds must either look for their zone of control or take the place of dead birds. In the European part of the range, young people always rush in search of new, free sites.

Siberian inhabitants of the forests settle near the parent pair. For example, in broad-leaved European forests, the population density is about 1 pair per 1 square kilometer; in the Sayan Mountains — 5 – 6 pairs for the same area. These birds are not shy and can feed next to a person and even take food from the hand. They are easily tamed and often kept in captivity.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Common Nuthatch in nature

Photo: Common nuthatch in nature

Coachmen, as in the old days they called this bird for its characteristic sounds, are monogamous and nest constantly at one place. The territory protected by a couple can occupy about ten hectares. In order to give a sign that this place is occupied and to attract a female, the male sings.

He uses different methods for courtship:

  • peculiar trills;
  • flying in circles with head up and tail fanned out;
  • feeding the female.

Interesting fact: Genetic studies by German scientists have shown that 10% of the individuals in the study areas were the fathers of others males from neighboring sites.

The beginning of nesting in the northern regions occurs in May, and in the southern regions in April. These birds build nests in hollows of trees that arose naturally or in those hollowed out by woodpeckers. If the hollow is not deep enough, and the wood is damaged by putrefactive processes, then the female can increase it.

As a rule, the hollow of the nuthatch is located no lower than two and no higher than twenty meters. Several layers of small fragments of bark are laid out on the bottom, for example, pine, or other woody materials.

Interesting fact:The nuthatches reduce the entrance to the hollow with the help of clay, manure, dirt, thereby protecting their shelter from enemies, as well as from being captured by starlings. They also smear the bark around the hole both outside and inside with the same compound.

A small entrance to the hollow is usually not reduced. The nest, as such, is not built by nuthatches, but the layer of woody debris is so large that the eggs literally sink into it. The construction of the shelter takes the birds about a month; females are more busy with this business. Birds use this hollow in subsequent years.

The female lays 5-9 eggs. Sometimes there are up to thirteen white eggs with brown spots in a clutch. They are slightly less than two centimeters long and less than one and a half wide, their weight is 2.3 g. If the mother leaves the nest during incubation, she completely immerses the clutch deeper into the litter. At this time, the birds almost do not make sounds, trying to be invisible.

Two eggs are incubated — three weeks until all chicks emerge from their shells. After another three weeks, the chicks are fully fledged, but the couple continues to feed them for a couple of weeks, after which the chicks become independent. During feeding, a couple of birds fly to the nest with prey more than three hundred times a day.

Interesting fact: It has been noticed that in large hollows there are always more chicks.

Natural enemies of the nuthatch

Photo: Male Nuthatch

Photo: Male Nuthatch

In Europe, the largest birds of prey pose a danger to these birds, such as:

  • sparrowhawk;
  • hobby falcon;
  • goshawk;
  • tawny owl;
  • pygmy owl.

The nests of nuthatches are also ruined by the spotted woodpecker, but starlings, also settling in hollows, pose an even greater danger. They eat eggs, and then remain full owners in the hollow. Small varieties of mustelids also pose a danger: weasels, ermines, which are able to climb a tree and fit into the entrance in size. Squirrels also tend to occupy the hollows of these birds.

Interesting fact: To scare away other birds and squirrels from their homes, crawl into the clay with which they cover the notch, mix some foul-smelling insects.

In some regions, where ringed or pink parrots are found in park areas, they can compete with nuthatches, as they also nest in hollows. But Belgian ornithologists who conducted research in 2010 expressed the opinion that this problem is not so serious and does not pose a danger to the nuthatch population. Serious troubles for the health of birds can be caused by Ptilonyssus sittae mites, they live in the nasal cavities of birds. And also nematodes and intestinal worms undermine the health of pichuga.

Population and species status

Photo: Common Nuthatch

Photo: Nuthatch

The population of Sitta europaea is distributed over the entire range, but with uneven density. In the regions of the Far North and coniferous forests of Siberia, they can be found much less frequently, and the number of birds directly depends on the yield of cones. The number of these birds in the world is large and does not tend to the threshold values ​​that are considered vulnerable.

In recent years, the nuthatch has not only increased its number in Europe, but also expanded the regions of its settlement in Scotland and the Netherlands, Norway and Northern England , often breeds in Finland and Sweden. Also, these birds settled in the higher places of the Atlas.

In Europe, the population of the nuthatch is estimated at 22 — 57 million individuals. This allows us to make a rough estimate for the entire habitat of 50-500 million birds. Between 10,000 and 100,000 pairs nest in Russia, Japan, China and Korea.

The distribution area of ​​these passerines in Eurasia is more than 23 million km2. This is considered a good indicator of population stability and is rated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as Least Concern and Least Concern. That is, nothing threatens this species in the near future.

Interesting fact: The survival rate of adults in Europe is 51%, and for young birds – 25%, which indicates their greater vulnerability.

The common nuthatch prefers old, perennial trees for its life. Deforestation significantly affects the population decline. The preservation of the forest zone, the installation of feeders for wintering birds and artificial nests in forest parks and parks will help to keep this species in a sustainable form.

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