• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Pygmy Nuthatch

Sitta pygmaea ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: SITTIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Small even by nuthatch standards, Pygmy Nuthatches are tiny bundles of hyperactive energy that climb up and down ponderosa pines giving rubber-ducky calls to their flockmates. Their buffy-white underparts set off a crisp brown head, slate-gray back, and sharp, straight bill. Pygmy Nuthatches breed in large extended-family groups, which is one reason why you’ll often see a half-dozen at a time. Look for them in open forests of older ponderosa pines across the West.

ML Essential Set
Learn About Celebrate Urban Birds!

Songs

As in other nuthatch species, there is no concrete division between songs and calls. The Pygmy Nuthatch’s song is a continuous repetition of its “piping” call, lasting for more than 2 minutes.

Calls

The most frequent call is a shrill, staccato piping, sounding a bit like Morse code or a rubber ducky being repeatedly squeezed. Pygmy Nuthatches also have other calls, including titters and high-pitched trills, which combine in a large flock to create a steady, conversation-like chattering.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

If you live near their long-needled pine habitat, you can attract Pygmy Nuthatches with suet and sunflower feeders, and possibly attract a breeding pair to a nest box. Our NestWatch project has a variety of plans and instructions for building and putting up nest boxes.

Find This Bird

Because they usually forage in tall pine trees, Pygmy Nuthatches can be challenging to see. Look for them in open pine forest (especially ponderosa) in the West. Listen carefully for sharp, high-pitched peep calls—Pygmy Nuthatches are very vocal but they don’t sing discrete songs, so it can be easy to overlook the constant background noise of their chattering. They travel in large groups, so keep watching if you see one flying across an opening from one tree to the next. More are likely to follow. With a bit of patience, you can probably get a good look at one as it scales a trunk or rustles around amidst a cluster of pine needles.