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Nuthatches sketchbook page by Hannah Longmuir

One thing we were delighted to discover when we moved into The New House was that the peanut feeders in the garden were frequented by nuthatches. They are a bird I’ve always admired but not known a great deal about so I decided to do some research. Here’s what I learnt:

  • Nuthatches seldom travel far from the woods in which they were born. The average distance travelled from the nest would be less than a kilometre. That means that our nuthatches are a] local and b] probably the same ones every day. I suppose resident nuthatches are one of the many benefits of having a house in a woodland.
  • If you’re not willing to travel, it probably explains why you might be fiercely territorial and a little bit aggressive. They are bold birds (and slightly sinister looking?).
  • Nuthatches have only been recorded as being resident in southern Scotland since 1989.
  • They eat insects, hazelnuts, acorns, beech mast and other seeds and nuts. They open up the nuts by jamming them in to a crevice then hammering at them.
  • Because nuthatches eat seed in the winter and insects in the summer, the shape of their bills actually changes throughout the year. Their bills are longer in the summer because they aren’t subject to the heavy wear and tear of hammering that a seed diet requires.
  • Nuthatches can move both up and down a tree trunk, unlike the treecreeper which can only move up. I suppose it’s their liking of being upside-down which has given them their unusual shape. They have a different balance-point than the other garden birds. Sometimes I think they look like jabby, double-jointed, upside-down penguins.
  • Old traditional names for the nuthatch include ‘mud dabbler’ and ‘mud stopper’, both referring to the habit of plastering mud around the entrance hole to it’s nest. Nuthatches will nest in nest boxes, but they love to nest in old woodpecker holes.

That’s my very quick introduction to nuthatches. I’m looking forward to many years of watching them through the living room window and learning lots more about them.

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