Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea)

Pygmy Nuthatch

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Sittidae | [latin] Sitta pygmaea | [UK] Pygmy Nuthatch | [FR] Petite Sittelle | [DE] Zwergkleiber | [ES] Saltapalo enano | [NL] Dwergboomklever


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Sitta pygmaea NA, MA sw Canada to w Mexico
Sitta pygmaea brunnescens
Sitta pygmaea elii
Sitta pygmaea flavinucha
Sitta pygmaea leuconucha
Sitta pygmaea melanotis
Sitta pygmaea pygmaea

Physical charateristics

A very small, pine-loving nuthatch, with a gray-brown cap coming down to the eye and a whitish spot on the nape. Usually roams about in little flocks.

Listen to the sound of Pygmy Nuthatch

[audio: Nuthatch.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 18 cm wingspan max.: 22 cm
size min.: 9 cm size max.: 11 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 17 days
fledging min.: 14 days fledging max.: 22 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 5  
      eggs max.: 10  


North America, Middle America : Southwest Canada to West Mexico


Yellow pines, other pines, Douglas-fir. Yell
ow pine (the commercial name for ponderosa and Jeffrey pines) is main habitat element throughout mountains of West; also occurs in Monterey pine on California coast. In some places extends into pinyon-juniper woodland and redwood canyons. On rare visits t
o lowlands, likely to be in planted conifers.


Nesting pairs often joined by 1-3 additional birds, usually their previous offspring, which help defend the territory and raise the young; these helpers may roost in nest hole with the pair before the eggs hatch.
Nest: Both sexes help excavate nest cavity in dead limb or snag, 8-
60′ above ground, usually higher than 20′. May tolerate some hole-nesting birds quite nearby (bluebirds, swallows) but not chickadees or other nuthatches. Nest in cavity is made of bark fibers, pl
ant down, feathers. Pair usually roosts at night in nest cavity prior to egg-laying.
Eggs: Usually 6-8, rarely 4-9. White, lightly dotted with reddish brown. Female incubates (15-16 days), is fed on nest by male and sometimes by additional helpers.
Young: Are fed by both parents and often by helpers. Young leave the nest at about 20-22 days. 1 brood per year, occasionally 2.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects and seeds.
Diet in summer is primarily insects, especially beetles, wasps, caterpillars, and true bugs, also many others. In winter, also eats many seeds, especially pine seeds. Nestlings are fed mostly insects.
Forages mainly on outermost and highest branches of pines, including cones and needle clusters; also on main branches and trunks. Sometimes sallies out to catch flying insects in the air. Often stores seeds in holes or crevices in bark.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Pygmy Nuthatch status Least Concern


Resident from southern British Columbia to central Mexico. Migration: Mostly a permanent resident. In years with poor cone crops, mountain birds sometimes wander to lowlands, and very rarely move far out onto plains.

Distribution map

Pygmy Nuthatch distribution range map

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