Treecreepers and nuthatches
Though not related, nuthatches and treecreepers have evolved similar lifestyles, climbing along tree trunks and branches in search of food. In the winter it is not unusual to find the two species in mixed feeding flocks of small birds, usually with the nuthatches at the vanguard of the flock and the treecreepers bringing up the rear.
Whereas nuthatches are equally adept at going up and down tree trunks, treecreepers always go up or along and never down. Thus they tend to fly from tree to tree, starting at the bottom, climbing up, then dropping to the base of the next tree to start the same process again.
Though the two species may forage in similar ways, they don’t compete for food. The treecreeper is exclusively insectivorous which is why it isn’t attracted to bird tables. In contrast, the nuthatch is a seed and nut specialist (hence its name) and is easily drawn to feeders. Peanuts are its special favourite.
Both species will readily adopt our nest boxes. Treecreepers like to nest on trees with thick bark, so they prefer boxes with an open back attached direct to the trunk. Nuthatches also like to nest close to the truck and have a curious habit of always plastering mud around the entrance to the hole.
Nuthatches are birds of deciduous woods and they really need plenty of oak and beech. In Britain, their distribution closely echoes that of the beech tree. They have only recently colonised southern Scotland, and are absent from Ireland. Treecreepers, on the other hand, can also be found in coniferous as well as deciduous woods and forests and occur throughout the British Isles.