Pygmy Nuthatch

Sitta pygmaea
Range Map

The Pygmy Nuthatch is a noisy, gregarious bird that we find in long needled coniferous forests of temperate North America. These birds travel in groups of extended family members, often the group size is six or more. Members of these extended families will help feed and raise the breeding pair’s offspring. They will also defend territory and feed brooding females. Pygmy Nuthatches roost in cavities with many dozens of other family members (even a hundred or more). More common are groups with about 15 members.

Some authorities recognise seven subspecies of Pygmy Nuthatch:

  • S. p. pygmaea lives near the central California coast.
  • S. p. melanotis lives in southern British Columbia and the mountains of the western USA south to southern California, and the Inter-Mountain West from Montana and South Dakota south to Texas, and northern Mexico.
  • S. p. leuconucha lives in the mountains of southernmost California and northern Baja California (Mexico).
  • S. p. elii lives in northern Mexico.
  • S. p. flavinucha lives in east and central Mexico.
  • S. p. brunnescens lives in southern Mexico.
  • S. p. chihuahuae lives in the mountains of western Mexico.

Most of my meetings with Pygmy Nuthatches have been in the mountains of southern California or in the eastern Sierra-Nevada Range. Arizona has also gifted me with encounters in both Flagstaff and in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. I have enjoyed meeting this species in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. In Northern California, I have found them on the coast of northern California at Point Reyes. More recently (2023), I spent time with them in the Chiricahua Mountains of Southeastern Arizona.

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