Five facts you should know about nuthatches

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Scottish Nature Notes

Keep up to date with the latest wildlife and nature news in Scotland. Regular blogs from RSPB Scotland's conservation teams across the country. Writing about Scotland's amazing wildlife & natural environment.

Five facts you should know about nuthatches

  • Comments 2
  • Likes

Five facts you should know about nuthatches

Nuthatches were once restricted largely to south-eastern England but, during the 20th century, they started spreading north. Nuthatches started breeding regularly in Scotland only in 1989. If you have them visiting your garden, or you've seen them at a nature reserve or while out on a walk, you'll know they're pretty bold and are able to stand their ground fairly well against other birds.

Agile and busy are two further traits nuthatches seem to carry, but here are five facts you may not know about them.

Nuthatches are extremely versatile

Nuthatches are able to climb both up and down the trunk of a tree. This is unlike, for example, treecreepers which are known for being able to walk up a tree. Nuthatches can go in both directions, as well as all around the trunk, because of their strong legs and feet. They use this strength for added mobility rather than relying on their tail for support and balance like other species.

What’s in a name?

The word nuthatch comes from the original Middle English ‘nuthak’ which literally means nut hacker. This term refers to the way nuthatches would secure a shell (by wedging it into the crevice of a tree) and then hammer away at it with their bills to get to the kernel.

Eurasian nuthatches are spread far and wide

There are upwards of 20 species of nuthatch in the world, but the one we get in Scotland is called the Eurasian Nuthatch. This species has the largest breeding range by far, extending across Europe to Japan in temperate climates, taking in the UK, Russia and the Mediterranean basin.

Those nuthatches are organised...

Nuthatches are known for storing food. They'll often take seeds from bird tables and feeders and squirrel it away elsewhere. Nuthatches are territorial birds and if they've got food hidden for a rainy day that only strengthens their need to protect their patch. So, if you've been out planting seeds in the garden lately, and you've got nuthatches around, you may notice plants popping up in places you didn't expect.

And they like a personal touch

Nuthatches are perfectly capable of crafting their own homes, though they will readily adopt nestboxes if they are available too. However, if they choose the latter, they still can't resist putting their own personal stamp on the place. Nuthatches will plaster mud around the entrance hole to a nestbox, even if it was the right size to begin with. You would see this same behaviour if they were using a natural tree hole that was too big for their purposes.

If you'd like to provide homes for nuthatches where you live, or to get ideas for building homes for other birds and wildlife, click here.

Comments
  • l had a nuthatch come to my bird house haven't had one for about 2 yrs do have any ldeal why haven't come again, and how can l encourage them. yas

  • l had a nuthatch come to my bird house haven't had one for about 2 yrs do have any ldeal why haven't come again, and how can l encourage them. yas