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, 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.

Most of my meetings with these birds have been in southern California mountains 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. Another location where I enjoyed meeting this species was in the Bitterroot Valley in western Montana.

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.

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