Nuthatches are one of the rarest visitors to my feeders, and I have never had the pleasure of hosting a breeding couple. Although they aren’t native to Ireland, and there are few in Scotland, they are common in England and Wales with around 220,000 breeding territories.
If like me you’d love to know how to attract nuthatches to your garden, read on. Hopefully it won’t be long until these agile and inquisitive birds feed regularly at our tables.
Any bird will visit your garden if there’s an abundance of their favourite foods, shelter, somewhere to nest, and something to drink.
As nuthatches are cavity nesters, they look for trees in which to build their nests. The oak is their favourite, but they like big, old trees with large leaves.
Not only do they provide lots of cover, but their trunks are usually rife with insects. A favoured pastime of the nuthatch is to acrobatically crawl down tree trunks, sucking up all the insects as they go.
What to feed nuthatches to attract them to our gardens
Nuthatches aren’t the biggest fans of feeding tables; they are very particular about their food. They are famed for searching through seed mixes and digging out their favourites, much to the delight of the pigeons waiting on the ground for scraps.
In the wild they predominantly eat insects, nuts, and seeds. Gardens with oak, hazel, or beech trees pique the nuthatches attention, especially when they’re loaded with nuts.
Although reluctant feeders, they are occasionally tempted by sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet blocks.
They aren’t put off by having to shell the seeds; their bills are sharp and designed for this very task.
A clever trick is to smear bird-friendly peanut butter or suet on a tree trunk.
Nuthatches spend much of their time in the wild, working their way head-first down trunks, either hunting for insects, or searching for food they previously secreted in the cracks.
Provide water for the nuthatches
The birds are always on the lookout for somewhere to drink, so a freshly filled bird bath is appealing. They prefer shallow water, but if your bird bath is deep this is easily over come by adding a few pebbles for the songbirds to perch on as they drink.
Flowing water catches the nuthatch’s attention, maybe place a solar sprinkler or mister in the bath. A wonderful sight that I unfortunately haven’t yet seen, is nuthatches fluttering through oscillating sprinklers!
Give the nuthatches a resting place
In the wild, nuthatches spend most of their time in mature, deciduous woodland. They prefer to be high up and away from threat of predation.
Consider planting tall-growing shrubs if you haven’t got many trees. If you decide to plant trees, nut bearing ones such as oak and beech are the best choice; but be prepared to wait.
Nuthatches nesting in the garden
If you have previously had woodpeckers nesting in the garden, then there is a possibility that nuthatches won’t be far behind.
They nest in naturally formed cavities high in trees, and often make use of the nest that woodpeckers have vacated.
They are wise birds; they may feature the woodpecker, but they are smaller. The entrance hole to their nest is bigger than thy require; they pack it out with mud to prevent any bigger birds entering.
Nuthatches will use nesting boxes from time to time. They need a 32mm doorway, and prefer the box be installed high on a tree trunk. That way, their safe place and food source are both close together.
Don’t be tempted to remove old trees; the foraging options for the nuthatch are endless.
Leave nest lining materials tucked into shrubs or branches to encourage the birds to want to stay in your garden. Pet fur, fine grass, shredded bark, and fallen leaves are useful to nuthatches.
Although it’s rare to see a nuthatch in a garden, if you have plenty of trees or live alongside woodland, your chances increase.
For the rest of us, offer running water, plenty of peanuts, sunflower seeds, and don’t forget your camera.
I’d love to see if you have better luck than me at attracting nuthatches to your garden.