Pygmy nuthatch

Scientific name: Sitta pygmaea

Characteristics: A 4-inch-long bird with a stout, chisel-like bill, grayish-blue back and pale, buffy undersides. The head has a brownish cap, thick black eyeline and white cheeks.

Range: Found throughout much of Western North America from British Columbia into Mexico. A year-round resident in Central Oregon.

Breeding: A cavity nester, this nuthatch can either excavate its own hole or use an abandoned woodpecker hole or natural cavity. Lines the cavity with roots, fur, hair, feathers or grass. The eggs hatch after 15 to 18 days.

Habitat: Often found in association with ponderosa pine forests or oak woodlands.

Food: Feeds on seeds, acorns, caterpillars, moths and insects. Often seen clinging to the undersides of branches and leaves or foraging up or down along tree trunks; they also visit bird feeders.

Bird facts: The common and species names describe the small stature of this active bird. Like a woodpecker, the pygmy nuthatch may excavate a small hole in house siding. Nuthatches may have additional unmated assistants helping them with nest chores; these birds may be last year’s offspring. In winter, nuthatches may roost communally with up to 100 birds huddled together. A group of nuthatches is called a “jar.”

Current viewing: Residential areas in Central Oregon, Sawyer Park, Shevlin Park and other locations.

— Damian Fagan is a volunteer with the East Cascades Audubon Society. He can be reached at .

Sources: Oregon Department of Wildlife Resources and “The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds” by John Terres.