The Nuthatch 


 By Andrew Calvesbert



The Nuthatch is fairly easily catered for in captivity and with the correct environment they can be encouraged to breed with a fair amount of success.


The aviary doesn’t have to be on the large scale, mine have reared in a very modest 6x6x3ft.
The enclosure should be lined with any off cuts from trunks from any of the trees with a decent dept of bark on them. Pine is very good.
The inside of the roof can also be lined with bark this will enable the birds to show off some of there many talents of hanging upside down. It will also be a good place for the inhabitants to roost on top of the boards and just under the roof.


A word of warning nuthatches are great hoarders of food and will bury anything from nuts, pips and all sorts of seeds whether amongst the crevices in the bark or in the floor or gaps in the frame work of the aviary.
This hiding of food can encourage the bird keeper’s enemy, the mouse into the aviary.


You may replenish the food supply one day and the next it will be empty; this is because the nuthatches have hidden it all amongst the bark in the enclosure.


The feeding is very simple, mine are fed mostly on sunflower (whole and the larger the better) most cereal seeds.
Large Russian pine nuts are also a favourite, It is a pleasure to watch these get placed into the crevices and then get broken open by the power of their bills.  Peanuts are another food.
Any basic insectivorous mix can be used as the main diet.
Apples and pears are relished especially when they are getting near the pips.
Live food is fed weekly during the winter months then increased gradually to daily nearer the springtime.
Small mealworms are a good starter along with Wax worms which are fed when young are about a week old, also if the birds will take crickets of various sizes these will all add to the variety of live food available, mine are used to frozen crickets which does save on any escapees.

When you have your pair they are best placed together in the breeding enclosure as earliest as possible. A good guide is after the autumn, when they have accepted each other try not move or split them up unless it looks as though they may be losses.
They are a bird which should be kept on their own as they could do damages to another bird with their powerful bill.


During the breeding season the male bird becomes very vocal calling to alert his mate to his territory, he can become very entertaining as he dances to her showing her the nest boxes and offering an insect of his choice to her.
The hen will start to show signs of nesting on the first warm days of February or March by cleaning out the box of any leaves or rotten wood.
The hen will start to plaster mud around the nest box entrance and any areas inside the box which lets in any light.


Material can vary from leaves to pieces of wood chipping and flakes of bark.


The clutch size is 5-8 with incubation lasting 15/16days.  If the hen leaves the nest without being disturbed she will attempt to hide the eggs/chicks with nesting material.


Young nuthatches develop more slowly than other passerines of their size.  Feather quills beneath the skin start to appear on the 3rd day, eyes open on the 9th day, along with the flight feathers appearing.  Fledging takes place from around 21 to 24 days.  After 8-10 days from leaving the nest they start to become self supporting.
At around 40 days old the youngsters seem to go scatty and act wild for no apparent reason, I have since found out this is a natural restless period which can last up to 2 weeks and is apparently associated with their dispersal from the breeding area they would have in the wild.


Some of the young can be sexed from around 2 weeks old by the darker chestnut  colour underneath the tail and around the vent area. The male birds are more richly coloured than the females. As they moult out the male will take the same rich colour down the flanks and along the side of its body


All in all a fairly easy bird to cater for with food and accommodation, quite easily sexed and not too fussy to feed, it also tends to live to about 5-8 years or longer.
A very entertaining addition to any aviary and certainly a tough little Nutter.