Family Nuthatches (Sittidae)

Least Concern

Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)


French: Sittelle torchepot German: Kleiber Spanish: Trepador azul

Sitta europæa


, 1758,

Europe and America = Sweden


Has often been treated as conspecific with some or all of S. nagaensis, S. cashmirensis, S. castanea, S. cinnamoventris and S. neglecta; until recently considered conspecific with S. arctica. Geographical variation complex. Races have been traditionally divided into buff-breasted “caesia group” (W Europe, N Africa and Middle East), white-breasted “europaea group” (N Palearctic from Scandinavia E to Japan, S to E Tien Shan and N China), and buff-breasted “sinensis group” (C & E China). Morphological studies of Asian populations, combined with DNA from many localities across range (excluding Turkey, the Levant, Iran and China), have revealed a more complex situation, and present treatment tentative, based on incomplete genetic screening#R#R: “europaea group” (now including “caesia group”), within which DNA reveals a European clade, as well as a separate one based on race caucasica (but other W Asian populations not sampled, so provisionally combined with European clade); Asian “asiatica group”, comprising white-bellied N forms and buff-bellied SE forms, which form a natural grouping (although some or all of Japanese forms may represent a distinct subgroup); and “sinensis group” of China (no DNA data). To complicate matters further, “europaea group” meets or overlaps with “asiatica group” in two small areas (S Urals, and lower basins of R Kama and R Vyatka), with hybridization reportedly limited and not significantly affecting the phenotype of adjacent “pure” populations; these two groups possibly represent distinct species. In addition, nominate and caesia intergrade over broad front from E Denmark E to Lithuania and W Belarus and S to W Ukraine, E Bulgaria and NW Turkey; birds in N Turkey are intermediate between caucasica and caesia/levantina; race amurensis intergrades with baicalensis in Amur Valley (SE Russia) and with sinensis in relatively narrow zone in NE Hebei (E China). Birds in Altay region of N Xinjiang (NW China) provisionally included in seorsa. Races baicalensis, sakhalinensis, clara and takatsukasai often merged with asiatica, and race formosana often synonymized with sinensis. Twenty-one subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. e. caesia Wolf, 1810 – W Europe from Britain E to Denmark, Poland and W Belarus, S to N Spain (Cantabrian Mts and Pyrenees), Alps, Balkans (except Dalmatian coast), Greece and W Turkey (Thrace and NW Anatolia).
  • S. e. europaea Linnaeus, 1758 – European Nuthatch – S Scandinavia (including most islands in S Baltic) and W Russia (E to Volga and Vyatka Basins) S to E Poland, E Romania, E Bulgaria, NW Turkey (N Thrace) and Ukraine.
  • S. e. hispaniensis Witherby, 1913 – Portugal, C Spain and N Morocco (Middle Atlas and C High Atlas).
  • S. e. cisalpina Sachtleben, 1919 – Switzerland (S of Alps), Italy, N Sicily, coastal Croatia and SW Montenegro.
  • S. e. levantina E. J. O. Hartert, 1905 – S Turkey (SW Anatolia E to E Taurus) and W Syria#R.
  • S. e. persica Witherby, 1903 – extreme SE Turkey, N Iraq (Kurdistan) and W Iran (Zagros Mts S to Fars Province).
  • S. e. rubiginosa Tschusi & Zarudny, 1905 – SE Transcaucasia (Talyshskiye Gory Mts and Lenkoran area) and N Iran (Elburz and Caspian districts E to extreme NW Khorasan).
  • S. e. caucasica Reichenow, 1901 – NE Turkey, SW Russia (in Caucasus S from basins of Terek and Kuban), Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  • S. e. asiatica Gould, 1835 – Asian Nuthatch – C Russia (W foothills of middle Urals E to C Siberia and W shore of L Baikal) S to N & NE Kazakhstan (S to Kokchetau and Tarbagatai Mts) and W Mongolian Altai.
  • S. e. baicalensis Taczanowski, 1882 – E Siberia from W Yakutia (Vilyui Valley) and L Baikal E to Sea of Okhotsk and N Amurland, S to Transbaikalia, C Mongolia and NE China (NE Inner Mongolia and NW Heilongjiang).
  • S. e. albifrons Taczanowski, 1882 – NE Russia (S Koryak Highlands and Kamchatka Peninsula) and N Kuril Is (Paramushir).
  • S. e. amurensis Swinhoe, 1871 – Russian Far East (S & E Amurland, Ussuriland), NE China (N Heilongjiang S to NE Hebei) and Korea.
  • S. e. sakhalinensis Buturlin, 1916 – Sakhalin.
  • S. e. takatsukasai Momiyama, 1931 – SC Kuril Is (Urup, Iturup).
  • S. e. clara Stejneger, 1887 – S Kurils (Kunashir, Shikotan) and N Japan (Hokkaido).
  • S. e. hondoensis Buturlin, 1916 – C & S Japan (Honshu, Shikoku and N Kyushu).
  • S. e. roseilia Bonaparte, 1850 – extreme S Japan (S Kyushu).
  • S. e. bedfordi Ogilvie-Grant, 1909 – Jeju I, off S Korea.
  • S. e. seorsa Portenko, 1955 – N & E Xinjiang (Altai region, in Altai Mts; Hami, in extreme E Tien Shan), in NW China.
  • S. e. sinensis J. P. Verreaux, 1871 – Oriental Nuthatch#RE China from S Gansu E to Shanxi, Beijing and NE Hebei, S to C Sichuan (to Wanyuan and W border of Red Basin), Guizhou, N Guangxi, Hunan, Jiangxi and Fujian.
  • S. e. formosana Buturlin, 1911 – Taiwan.
  • Descriptive notes

    12–17 cm; 17–28 g. Medium-sized nuthatch. Male nominate race has crown and upperparts blue-grey, black eyestripe; upperwing-coverts blue-grey, inner webs of... read more


    Very vocal, with loud piping and trilling calls. Commonest call, used in excitement, an abrupt,... read more


    Favours mature forest with large old trees and well-developed canopy providing extensive foraging... read more

    Food and feeding

    Food insects, especially beetles (Coleoptera) and lepidopteran caterpillars, and other arthropods; also, mainly in autumn and winter, seeds... read more


    Laying Apr–May, occasionally late Mar, very exceptionally Feb and once in Dec (Switzerland), timing varying with latitude and... read more


    Generally sedentary, but juveniles may disperse, usually over short distances, in late summer and... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common to locally common. Estimated European population c. 7,000,000 breeding pairs; in Siberia, numbers variable and closely... read more

    Recommended citation

    Harrap, S., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 23 February 2020).