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The Eurasian Nuthatch

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A photograph of an Eurasian Nuthatch in a tree

The Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) is a distinctive bird, with grey plumage on its back and peach feathers on its breast, plus a black stripe across its eyes. It is often to be found on trees or bird feeders eating upside down.

As its name suggests, the Eurasian Nuthatch can be found across Europe and Asia. The global population is estimated to be in excess of ten million birds and the population is stable so they have been classed as Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List. The main threat they face is loss of their woodland habitat, as they live in mature trees.

As its name suggests, the Eurasian Nuthatch is fond of nuts and seeds in autumn and winter (it may also save some in a 'food cache' hidden in tree bark), but during spring and summer its diet is mainly insects. Most members of the species stay close to where they hatched, such as in the UK, but they may move to find new territory if food in their area becomes scarce.

Male and female Eurasian Nuthatches are similar in appearance. They nest in natural holes in trees, or in old woodpecker nests. The female lays up to nine eggs and incubates them for 16-17 days. Both parents feed the chicks for three to four weeks until the chicks learn to fly. The oldest Eurasian Nuthatch known to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) was 12 years old.

In the UK, Eurasian Nuthatches can be found across England and Wales, and sometimes in southern Scotland. They may be found on bird feeders in gardens and are also frequent visitors to nature reserves, including Titchfield Haven on the south coast and Burton Mere in the north west.

The Nuthatch Family

There are 28 other members of the Sitta genus, all with 'nuthatch' in their common names. They have long, thin beaks for delving into crevices to find insects, or for opening nutshells. They also have a grey back like their Eurasian cousin. Some have peach breasts but others have white on their undersides. Many have black eye-stripes, but others have black, grey or brown caps on their heads instead.

Several birds in the genus are classed as Least Concern and their population has increased in recent years. These include the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) and the Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) of North America. Some are Least Concern with stable populations, such as Przevalski's Nuthatch (Sitta przewalskii) found in China, and the Siberian Nuthatch (Sitta arctica). Some nuthatch species have unknown population trends, but are also of Least Concern, including the Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch (Sitta cinnamoventris) that is found around the Himalayan Mountains in South Asia.

However, other members of the genus are not so fortunate. The Beautiful Nuthatch (Sitta formosa) is Vulnerable as it is found only in Myanmar and its population has decreased in recent years. The White-browed Nuthatch (Sitta victoriae) is Endangered as it is found only in a small area of Myanmar. The Bahama Nuthatch (Sitta insularis) is classed as Critically Endangered - there are estimated to be no more than 50 adult birds left in the wild, and they are found only on the island of Grand Bahama. Efforts to monitor the birds and protect their habitats are ongoing.

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