Sitta europaea (Linnaeus, 1758) NH NUTHA 14790
Family: Passeriformes > Sittidae

Nuthatch, Sarah Kelman

The Nuthatch is a charismatic inhabitant of woodland and an agile visitor to bird tables.

A handsome bird with a similar shape and structure to a woodpecker. The Nuthatch has a slate grey back, black eye stripe, white cheeks and orange breast; it is possible to distinguish male birds by their contrasting dark rufous flanks. Birds can be seen all year round in the UK, particularly in old deciduous woodland, although the species is absent from Northern Ireland and central to northern Scotland. The species possesses a range of loud whistling calls.

Nuthatches nest in tree holes or nest boxes, reinforcing the nest entrance with dried mud. Up to eight eggs are laid. The Nuthatch UK population trend shows a significant increase since the 1970s, which may be caused by a fall in the rate of nest failure and an increase in brood size and the number of chicks successfully reared per breeding attempt.

Exploring the trends for Nuthatch

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Nuthatch population is changing.

trends explorer


Nuthatch identification is usually straightforward.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Nuthatch, provided by xeno-canto contributors.



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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Nuthatch abundance in the UK has increased rapidly since the mid 1970s. The increase has been accompanied by a range expansion into northern England and southern Scotland (Balmer et al. 2013). The BBS map of change in relative density between 1994-96 and 2007-09 indicates that, despite general increase over that period, there was evidence of some decrease in Kent, Cornwall and western Wales. There has been an increase across Europe since 1980 (PECBMS: PECBMS 2020a>).

Exploring the trends for Nuthatch

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Nuthatch population is changing.

trends explorer


Nuthatches are widespread in winter and the breeding season throughout Wales, most of England and southern Scotland. They are absent from the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Ireland and much of Scotland. Across England, they are notably absent from the Fens and the arable farmland of East Yorkshire.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2

Breeding Season Habitats

Relative frequency by habitat

Relative occurrence in different habitat types during the breeding season.

>Bar of similar size indicate the species is equally likely to be recorded in those habitats


Both winter and breeding range of Nuthatches have expanded, for example by 38% in winter since the 1981–84 Winter Atlas. Range expansion, much of which has been in south Scotland, has also been accompanied by increases in relative abundance within the established range, particularly in western England and Wales.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Nuthatch is recorded throughout the year, with detections peaking in late winter and early spring when the loud territorial song proclaims its presence.

Weekly occurence of Nuthatch from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


Lifecycle and body size information about Nuthatch, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.


Exploring the trends for Nuthatch

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Nuthatch population is changing.

trends explorer


View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report

Exploring the trends for Nuthatch

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Nuthatch population is changing.

trends explorer


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Sgoltan
Welsh: Delor Cnau
Catalan: pica-soques blau
Czech: brhlík lesní
Danish: Spætmejse
Dutch: Boomklever
Estonian: puukoristaja
Finnish: pähkinänakkeli
French: Sittelle torchepot
German: Kleiber
Hungarian: csuszka
Icelandic: Hnotigða
Italian: Picchio muratore
Latvian: dzilnitis
Lithuanian: eurazinis bukutis
Norwegian: Spettmeis
Polish: kowalik (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: trepadeira-azul
Slovak: brhlík obycajný
Slovenian: brglez
Spanish: Trepador azul
Swedish: nötväcka
Folkname: Nutjobber, Woodcracker


Interpretation and scientific publications about Nuthatch from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The demographic causes of the population increase appear to be an increase in the number of fledglings per breeding attempt, larger brood sizes and a decrease in daily failure rates. However, it is unclear what the ecological drivers of these changes are.

Further information on causes of change

The number of fledglings per breeding attempt has increased strongly, through an increase in brood size and a fall in nest failure rates.

There is little evidence relating to Nuthatch population change in the UK. However, studies from Europe provide evidence that mild winters are likely to have helped this species. Kallander (1997) used a long-term data set (1977-91) to provide good evidence that Nuthatches in a Swedish national park had a population size in spring which co-varied positively with winter temperatures and suggest that increases in population size may be associated with increasing mean winter temperature. Nilsson (1982, 1987) also found that mortality was concentrated in winter and that starvation was probably the major cause. However, a long-term study in Poland from 1975 to 1990 found that bird numbers in spring were not significantly correlated with the severity of the preceding winter, though winter survival was higher in the unusually mild winter of 1989/90, which had a rich supply of hornbeam seeds (Wesolowski & Stawarczyk 1991). It is not possible to say whether such factors have also operated in the UK, as the climate here is considerably less extreme.

Several studies have also reported a link between population size and the size of food availability in the autumn. A study of two Nuthatch populations in Sweden provided good evidence that autumn population size was correlated with the size of the hazelnut crop, suggesting food supplies play a role, although beechmast crop was not correlated with overwinter survival and nor was autumn population size correlated with the population density in spring (Enoksson & Nilsson 1983, Enoksson 1990). In the studies by Nilsson mentioned above, the main density-dependent factor, recruitment of young of the year to the autumn population, was positively related to the current beechmast supply and negatively to the density of adults (Nilsson 1982, 1987). A long-term study in Poland from 1975 to 1990 also found that Nuthatch numbers seemed to be influenced by autumn seed supply and also availability of caterpillars in the preceding spring (Wesolowski & Stawarczyk 1991). Another continental study in Europe found that local survival in autumn was higher in beechmast years for juveniles, but not for adults and that local winter survival was not higher in years with than in years without beechmast (Matthysen 1989). Thus there is some evidence that increases in population size are linked to food supplies, but again, this has not been directly tested for UK birds.

Although there is no direct evidence available, Nuthatches are known to favour dead wood, and so it is possible that they may have benefited from the increase in dead wood in the UK (Amar et al. 2010a).

In Belgium, competition for nest sites with the non-native, invasive Ring-necked Parakeet was found to be detrimental to Nuthatches (Strubbe & Matthysen 2009). However, there is evidence showing that this is not a problem in the UK at present (Newson et al. 2011).

Information about conservation actions

The population of this species has increased consistently since the 1970s and it has expanded its range northwards, hence it is not a species of concern and no conservation actions are currently required.

Conservation actions benefiting other woodland species may also help Nuthatch. Habitat fragmentation may prevent Nuthatches from finding new sites (Verboom et al. 1991; Bellamy et al. 1998; van Langevelde 2008), and the provision of more frequent suitable patches of woodland across the landscape may therefore enable further colonisation and range expansion. Fragmentation may explain why numbers are relatively low and there are gaps in distribution in eastern England (Bellamy et al. 1998).


Peer-reviewed papers

A method to evaluate the combined effect of tree species composition and woodland structure on indicator birds

2015 | Dondina, O., Orioli. V., Massimino, D., Pinoli, G. & Bani, L.Ecological Indicators

Providing quantitative management guidelines is essential for an effective conservation of forest-dependent animal communities.

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