Pygmy Nuthatch

The Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea) is a non-migratory bird that lives primarily in Ponderosa and Jeffrey Pine forests in western North America.

Pygmy Nuthatch Range Map

These Pygmy Nuthatches were seen in June nesting in a pine tree at Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. Click on photos for full sized images.

Pygmy Nuthatch at Lassen Volcanic National Park

They are one of the few cooperatively breeding passerines in North America and a third of the breeding pairs have 1–3 male helpers, usually progeny or other relatives.  These helpers feed incubating females, nestlings, and fledglings and participate in defense of the nest site1.

Pygmy Nuthatch at Cavity Entrance

These little 4 1/4 inch birds roost in cavities, which it selects depending on season and weather. It picks roosts based on insulation and ventilation provided by roost cavities and relies on hypothermia to survive cold winter nights. Although a few other North American birds are capable of controlled hypothermia, only the Pygmy Nuthatch links hypothermia with protected roost sites and communalism.

Pygmy Nuthatch

Pairs roost together; juveniles roost with parents, and collectives of several flocks roost together. Stacks of 6, 8, and 10 birds, and more, roost together in formations of squares, oblongs, triangles, diamonds, wedges, and tiers. Two articles report more than 150 individuals roosting in one tree1.

Pygmy Nuthatch

What a nice, close knit family! They sure are cute when you see a group of them fluttering around. This is a video of someone hand feeding these energetic little birds.


References:1Birds of North America Online

Written by Larry
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Urban Bird Foundation. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Pass.