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The Kennedy Wild Bird Food Guide to the Nuthatch

The nuthatch bird belongs to the Sittidae family and can usually be found in woodlands, as they rarely stray far from where they hatch. They have been breeding across the UK and have recently been found in southern Scotland areas. While you may not find them in your back garden, if you do any walking through the woods you may hear their loud and simple nuthatch bird song. In this short guide about nuthatches, we will go through some tips about how to identify them and where to find them, as well as what to feed them in case you are lucky enough to spot them.

What do nuthatches look like?   

The British nuthatch is small, yet rotund and it visually resembles a small woodpecker. Its long black pointed bill and short legs are surrounded by greyish-blue feathers on the back and top, with a long black stripe starting from its beak, travelling past the eye and finishing at the back of its head. Its underneath is whitish with chestnut brown under its tail and sides. The most popular variant of nuthatches found in the UK are Eurasian nuthatches, which average at 14cm long. Males and females are visually similar and only vary with the colour on the underbelly.

What do nuthatches eat?

The nuthatch feeds on a mixture of insects, seeds and nuts. You will often find them searching for insects behind bark while gripping onto the tree (sometimes upside down!). While the nuthatch rarely leaves its territory to feed, preparing its ideal meal will increase your chances. Check out our peanuts for birds to get your setup ready.

Where do nuthatches live?

While our bird spotter tool highlights how they have been spotted recently in southern Scotland and northern England, there are many types of nuthatches and they can show up in many places. Nuthatches usually reside in temperate environments. Nuthatch nests are often found on the side of trees and the underside of branches. While nuthatches clearly have their favourite nesting areas, if you live near woodland, putting out a nuthatch nest box can increase your chances of spotting these little birds.

What does a nuthatch sound like?

Nuthatches have a sharp and largely vocal call, using multiple whistles and trills, and their breeding call is almost identical to their contact calls. The call differentiates with the nuthatch female, with a faster, more rapid outburst of tweets. To make sure you know what to listen out for, check out the audio from the video below: Click here to listen Fun fact: The red-breasted nuthatch can understand detailed bird calls, informing others of predators and their varying size and threat level.

Nuthatch breeding and behaviour

Nuthatches are romantically monogamous creatures and once their eggs have hatched after a typical 12-18 days, both parents take turns feeding their chicks. However, only the female incubates the eggs. Breeding starts in late April and if you are lucky enough to spot them, make sure to add them to our bird spotter tool for the bird spotting community!

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