Nuthatch: whistler in the woods
Nuthatches are one of the most attractive and interesting of our garden birds. They are also one of the species that is thriving in 21st century Britain, both increasing in numbers and expanding their range northwards. They were first recorded breeding in Scotland in 1989 and since then the population has doubled every two or three years.
They like beech trees so are rarely found far from them. If there are beech trees in or close to your garden, then you can expect visits from these handsome birds, easily recognised by their blue back, dagger sharp bill and brisk movements. They are closely related to the tits but their strong legs and feet enable them to go up, down or sideways on trunks or branches with equal ease.
Look closely and you can tell the sexes apart by the colour on the flanks. The male has rich chestnut flanks while those of the female are a pale, washed-out shade of orange. They will nest in boxes but many pairs prefer to use natural holes, invariably plastering mud around the entrance. They are strongly territorial, and their far-carrying whistling calls are a common sound in woods in the early spring. Unlike tits, they remain in pairs throughout the year and their offspring may stay with them for many months.
Nuthatches can be easily attracted to your birdfeeders by peanuts, suet cakes or black sunflower seeds. They often take food away from the bird table or feeder, flying a short distance before wedging it in the cracks of tree trunks or walls. They will then attack it with their beaks, hammering through the husk or shell, but they also store food in this way for later use.