Family Nuthatches (Sittidae)

Least Concern

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis)


French: Sittelle veloutée German: Samtstirnkleiber Spanish: Trepador piquirrojo

Sitta frontalis


, 1820,

Sri Lanka


Sometimes placed with S. solangiae and S. oenochlamys in a separate genus, Oenositta. The three have at times been considered conspecific. Racial identity of Sumatran populations requires verification, and these have been variously ascribed to nominate, saturatior and/or velata. The name corallina (described from C & N Nepal) should perhaps be applied to N populations of nominate race#R. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. f. frontalis Swainson, 1820 – peninsular India, especially in hills (absent from large areas, e.g. N & NW, Gangetic Plain and Deccan Plateau), Himalayan foothills from Uttarakhand E to NE India (S from Assam and Nagaland), Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, S China (SE Xizang, W, S & SE Yunnan, C & S Guizhou, Guangxi and WC Guangdong in Ding Hu Shan), Myanmar, Thailand S to Isthmus of Kra (absent from C plains and much of NE), and Indochina. Records in Hong Kong may refer to an introduced or a previously undetected population.
  • S. f. saturatior E. J. O. Hartert, 1902 – Malay Peninsula S of Isthmus of Kra (including Phuket, Penang and Singapore), Lingga Archipelago, Sumatra (including Simeulue I) and Bangka.
  • S. f. corallipes (Sharpe, 1888) – Borneo, including Maratua I (off E coast).
  • S. f. palawana E. J. O. Hartert, 1905 – Palawan and Balabac, in W Philippines.
  • S. f. velata Temminck, 1821 – Java.
  • Descriptive notes

    12–13·5 cm; 8·5–17 g (frontalis). A medium-small nuthatch with bright red bill (blackish in juvenile), yellow eye and eyering, black... read more


    Noisy. Common calls a single full, hard “chat”, “chit”, “chlit... read more


    Wide variety of forest types, including tropical rainforest, swamp-forest, semi-evergreen, hill... read more

    Food and feeding

    Food insects and spiders (Araneae). Found in pairs and in parties of up to six individuals, occasionally more, with up to 20 recorded... read more


    Season Apr–Jun in N India, Jan–May in S India and Sri Lanka, and in Myanmar Mar–Apr in N and Feb–Mar in S, May... read more


    Resident; few indications of altitudinal movement.  

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common in Indian Subcontinent and SE Asia, and can be abundant in optimum habitat, but local in Bangladesh and scarce in N Vietnam (Tonkin... read more

    Recommended citation

    Harrap, S. (2019). Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis). 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 19 April 2019).