Nuthatch

Nuthatch. Nut-Jobber. Woodcracker. Figure 13. [second row right]

Varioud bird eggs

The Sittine  Birds, or Nuthatches, are little short-bodied creatures, with large heads, and very small tails; the bill is tolerably long, straight, and slender, pentagonal, or five-sided at the base, or part where it is inserted into the head. They are pretty lively birds, and seem to occupy a position between the Certhias, or Tree Creepers, and the Parine  Birds or Tits. We have but one species in this country, known as the Sitta Europæa, or European Nuthatch; the generic name being derived, as Morris thinks, from some word in a primitive, or early language, (from primus —first,) from which also comes the term hatchet, and having reference to the habit of hacking and hewing at the nuts, on which this bird chiefly feeds.

The Nuthatch is not found generally throughout Britain, only in certain localities, and very rarely in the northern parts. It has long curved claws, by means of which it ascends the trunks of the trees, and clings about the branches much like the Creepers and Woodpeckers, frequently descending head downwards, which few other birds are able to do. It bores into the nuts with its strong-pointed bill, and feeds upon the kernels; it also with the same instrument extracts the insects from the holes and crevices, and thus varies its diet. Its motions are abrupt and jerking, so that it always appears in a desperate hurry, and it keeps up a constant quit, quit , as though giving warning to its landlady of an intention to leave its lodgings forthwith. Bewick says that it will pick bones, and that it lays up a store of food for the winter in various little granaries.

For a nesting-place it makes choice of some hole in a tree, which it lines with dried leaves, moss, scales of fir-cones, bits of bark, and it may be, a little hair. If the entrance is too large it is partly closed up with clay, so as to leave but just room for the bird to enter. The eggs are from five to seven or eight, sometimes nine in number; they are greyish white, with spots or blotches of reddish brown.

The following interesting account of a pair of Nuthatches engaged in making their nest, is from the pen of a contributor to a periodical called "The Naturalist;" the date of the occurrence was the 18th. of April.—"The birds had fixed upon a hole in an ash tree, about twenty feet from the ground, and were contracting it with a plastering of mud, for which they flew to a small pond about fifty yards distant from the tree, and took pieces in their beaks about as big as a bean, which they laid on, and smoothed with their chin. Sometimes one of them would go inside and remain for a short time, I suppose for the purpose of smoothing the mud there. They would every now and then leave off from their task, and chase one another up the trunk and round the branches of the tree with amazing rapidity, uttering all the while their flute-like whistle. They both seemed to take an equal share in the labour; and had, like the House Martin, small pieces of straw mixed with the mud, for the purpose of making it bind better. They seemed to be quite at ease on the ground, and hopped about much after the same manner as the Sparrow. The male bird was easily distinguishable by his brighter plumage."