Identification

Nuthatches are small birds which are easily distinguished from anything else you are likely to see. They are vaguely woodpecker like in shape, but smaller and plumper. They can sometimes be seen creeping along tree trunks, and unlike woodpeckers or treecreepers they can descend headfirst. Nuthatches have grey upperparts from their tails to their crown and covering their wings. Below they are a chestnut colour, with a white face and a prominent black eye-stripe.

They have a loud tui-tui-tui call.

Size

14cm (5 1/2in) long

Distribution

They are resident to England and Wales, with occasional reports from Scotland. They are absent from Ireland. Nuthatches rarely move far, they are incredibly sedentary and generally move only short distances from tree to tree.

Status

Nuthatches have undergone a rapid population increase in the UK since the 1970s. As such they are not considered to be under any threat. The causes of this increase are unknown but it is a continuing trend and their range is expanding northwards accordingly.

Habitat preference

Nuthatches favour mature woodland, from which they will rarely stray a great distance. Established parkland may also provide good habitat. Ideally they require trees with plentiful foraging opportunities. They will work their way down tree trunks searching for a good meal.

Where to find them in the garden

Most gardeners will find it difficult to attract a nuthatch for the simple reason that these birds rarely travel great distances. If there is a nuthatch population nearby, perhaps in a local area of mature woodland, then you may be lucky. Look for them crawling headfirst down tree trunks, or clinging to birdfeeders. They may also use nest boxes, improving them to their own specification by plastering the holes with mud.

Role in the garden

Nuthatches feed on insects that they pick off tree trunks. In this way they are very useful for controlling populations of pests that would otherwise cause damage to trees. They also eat seeds and nuts, which they smash by lodging them in crevices in a tree trunk.