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Pygmy Nuthatch


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.


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.


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. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

You may be able to attract a breeding pair to a nest box. If you decide to put up a nest box, make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

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.

You Might Also Like

Four Nuthatches, Four Ways to Make It Through a Cold Winter, All About Birds blog, February 27, 2015.



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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