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Pygmy Nuthatch

Silhouette NuthatchesNuthatches
Pygmy NuthatchSitta pygmaea
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Sittidae

Basic Description

Small even by nuthatch standards, Pygmy Nuthatches are tiny bundles of hyperactive energy that climb up and down ponderosa pines giving rubber-ducky calls to their flockmates. Their buffy-white underparts set off a crisp brown head, slate-gray back, and sharp, straight bill. Pygmy Nuthatches breed in large extended-family groups, which is one reason why you’ll often see a half-dozen at a time. Look for them in open forests of older ponderosa pines across the West.

More ID Info
image of range map for Pygmy Nuthatch
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Because they usually forage in tall pine trees, Pygmy Nuthatches can be challenging to see. Look for them in open pine forest (especially ponderosa) in the West. Listen carefully for sharp, high-pitched peep calls—Pygmy Nuthatches are very vocal but they don’t sing discrete songs, so it can be easy to overlook the constant background noise of their chattering. They travel in large groups, so keep watching if you see one flying across an opening from one tree to the next. More are likely to follow. With a bit of patience, you can probably get a good look at one as it scales a trunk or rustles around amidst a cluster of pine needles.

Other Names

  • Trepador Enano (Spanish)
  • Sittelle pygmée (French)

Backyard Tips

If you live near their long-needled pine habitat, you can attract Pygmy Nuthatches with suet and sunflower feeders. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

You may be able to attract a breeding pair to a nest box. If you decide to put up a nest box, make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

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