The Eurasian nuthatch, a small stocky bird with a short tail and a long beak


The Eurasian nuthatch is easily recognized by its eye patch black, its belly red and its back blue-gray. Aggressive and territorial, the bird defends its domain with virulence. Portrait of a sparrow which borrows its name from its qualities as a mason.

The torchepot nuthatch, a sittid

Eurasian nuthatch (Sitta europaea) is a species of birds belonging to the order of Passeriformes (passerines) and the sittidae family. The general appearance of the animal differs greatly according to the 21 subspecies recorded in the world. This bird with the body stocky displays a size of 12 to 15 cm, a wingspan of 22 to 28 cm and a weight of 17 to 25 g depending on its range.

Why “torchepot”?

The Eurasian nuthatch owes its name to the specific behavior of its species. Torchepot derives directly from the word cob, a mixture of clay and straw used in construction. The passerine in fact has the habit of adapting the diameter from the entrance to its nest to the dimensions of its body in order to ward off competitors and predators. With this in mind, the bird builds a small Wall rounding of clayey mud around the hole, leaving only enough space to enter. Its Canadian cousin, the red-breasted nuthatch does the same by using resin as a repellent.

The Eurasian nuthatch, like a pirate

The Eurasian nuthatch is easily recognized by its black headband pirate typical of the species who runs on either side of the head, including the eyes. Its long, powerful bill is black above and pale blue below. Throat and cheeks are white. The crown, tail and top are blue grey, darker on the wings. The lower parts feature a ginger frank, from throat to belly, turning dark orange under his short tail. The two-colored undertail, white and chestnut, take on a scaly. The heavily clawed feet are greyish to brownish.

Eurasian nuthatch, forest bird

The distribution area of ​​the Eurasian Nuthatch includes the vast majority of theEurope, the Middle East, Central Asia, as well as part of North Africa. This species lives in wooded areas, deciduous and mixed forests, orchards, large parks and gardens with corridors of hedges or trees. Its ecological optimum is the high forest of old stands, in particular of Oak trees, which offer it a number of cavities suitable for its nesting. The sparrow ventures to the upper limit of the forest and becomes scarce beyond 1,500 m altitude.

The nuthatch, provident for the winter

In spring, the Eurasian nuthatch feeds mainly oninsects, including caterpillars, larvae, beetles and other arthropods such as spiders. The bird catches its prey in flight or dislodges it behind the bark of trees. During the fall, the sparrow hides reservations of food (insects, seeds, fruits…) in tree cracks, trunks or in the ground in order to eat them in times of famine. In the cold season, it consumes tassels, hazelnuts and beechnuts by opening them with pecks. The Eurasian nuthatch easily approaches dwellings to peck fat balls, peanuts or nuts placed on the feeders.

The Eurasian nuthatch, an unsociable species

The Eurasian nuthatch is a bird sedentary that lives and nests in the same place all year round. The bird has a rather solitary outside the breeding and nesting period when it is seen as a pair. Very territorial, the sparrow defends its domain in all seasons against its congeners and other species. On the feeders too he shows himself aggressive, ardently attacking any competitor coming to refuel at the same place. The Eurasian nuthatch has the particularity of being able to descend the trees to the vertical, upside down thanks to its short legs and powerful claws that hold the weight of his body.

The Eurasian nuthatch is monogamous

The Eurasian nuthatch is a species monogamous which breeds from May to June. The couple usually nests in a tree hole located more than 2 m in height. The nest is built using various plants (bark, twigs), feathers or hair. As seen above, the entrance is blocked with mud (cob) to reduce its diameter. There are 4 to 10 white eggs that are spawned, slightly spotted with brown. The female, fed by the male, broods alone for about two weeks. After’hatching, the chicks are fed by both parents for more than 3 weeks. After the flight, the young people stay dependent adults for another 1 to 2 weeks.

The Eurasian nuthatch, widely distributed

The domestic cat, the European weasel, the pine marten, the dormouse and some raptors are among the main predators nuthatch. The passerine enjoys a protection total on French territory since the ministerial decree of April 17, 1981. This common and widespread species is not considered endangered and is even thought to be in expansion in Europe. The lifespan of the Eurasian nuthatch is 6 to 9 years in the wild.