Meet the Model – Norbert the Nuthatch
words and images by Peter Hanscomb
Say hello to Norman , the Nuthatch Sitta europaea.
This small agile and busy tit-sized woodland bird has a short tail, large head and a woodpecker-like bill. Nuthatches are the only bird that will climb up and down tree trunks in mature woods and parklands, feeding on insects, seeds and nuts, such as hazelnuts and beechmast. The nuthatch is distinctive. Grey above, with a long black horizontal strip through the eye, white cheeks and throat, and a rust-coloured belly. They nest in holes in trees left by Wood Peckers or abandoned nests, but are also happy to use nestboxes. This territorial bird starts breeding in April and can produce two clutches of up to 13 eggs each.
Nuthatch Fact… Ringed adult birds seldom travel more than a mile from where the where caught and ringed .
Nuthatches are omnivorous, eating mostly insects, nuts, and seeds. They forage for insects hidden in or under bark in woodland by climbing along tree trunks and branches, sometimes upside-down. They forage within their small territories when breeding, but they may join mixed feeding flocks at other times. Their habit of wedging a large food item in a crevice and then hacking at it with their strong bills gives this group its English name. The nuthatches stores food, especially seeds, in tree crevices, in the ground, under small stones, or behind bark flakes, and these caches are remembered for as long as a month.
Nuthatches are monogamous. The female produces eggs that are white with red or yellow markings; the clutch size varies, but can number up to twelve eggs. The eggs are incubated for 12 to 18 days by both parents and the chicks take between 21 and 27 days to fledge. Both parents feed the young take it in turn to feed the young.
Life expectancy 2/3 years in the wild
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