Nuthatch   

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Nuthatches comes under a small family of birds named Sittidae. The birds having clear characteristics of large heads and short tails, sturdy pointed bills and lengthy legs with strong toes ending in long claws. Their presence  in the area is denoted by the intermittent loud calls of whistles and trills. Other characteristic are the color of their bodies. They are in blue and grey, though Nuthatches in other region are known for the long black strip at the eyes and some with a contrasting supercilium. Of the two species found here in Malaysia, only the Velvet-fronted continued that tradition by having a thin black line after the eyes. Also seen in the bird, the dark colored forehead is followed by a lightly shaded crown followed. The Blue Nuthatch has a dark color head and face, so the talk about the presence of a black stripe at the eye for Nuthatches is irrelevant to this bird.

Sexes is distinguished by the differences in the tone on the underpart, especially rear flanks and under the tail for the velvet-fronted. More so the lack of the black post ocular stripe. The bills for the juvenile are dark or black while the adult Blue Nuthatches has pale color bills and the velvet fronted having red bills. In both cases, the color of the bills are outstanding as diagnostic markings..

Nuthatches are omnivorous, meaning they take a variety of foods ranging from insects, nuts to seeds. As their living habits, the birds is habitually seen scouring for insects hiding under the back of raised barks or deep cracks of tree trunks. Most time their action would one of "gliding" around the trunks and branches. Not surprising that the path would usually be one of going round the tree trunk, up and down the entire length. Then many a times kept moving in an upside down posture. Since the habits are working with trees with thick cracking barks and these are trees from deep forest, that's where the birds are often sighted.

It is not easy to spot Nuthatches and these birds with a body size smaller that a Sparrow hugging close to the tree trunk and unlike other passerines where their perched position made ostentatious because they are standing alone in the open, thus casting a tell tale silhouette. Furthermore the birds in a movement is rapid and constantly changing directions, pausing for only a fleeting moments.

 
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis
Blue Nuthatch Sitta azurea

World wide there are 24 species of Nuthatches and of which in South-east Asia there are 9 species. In Malaysia we get to see these 2 species.

 

 

Blue Nuthatch  Sitta azurea

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- The Blue-Nuthatch is the larger of the 2 Nuthatches that we get to see measuring in at 13.5 cm. Almost a black bird with contrasting white throat and breast . The broad bluish-white eye ring is significant as a diagnostic mark compliments the silver blue and black marking on the wings.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird of the Sumatra and Java Islands but also a resident in Malaysia.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a sub-montane forest bird found in altitude from 800 -2,000 meters
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The bird is most common in Old Pump House Road but hardly seen in the lower altitude of the Awana Trail. Since that road is hardly opened, then the other alternative would be the roads in Frasers Hills.
 
Record of bird's calls :-    and Videos
 

Blue Nuthatch  # 1

Blue Nuthatch   # 2

Blue Nuthatch  # 3

Blue Nuthatch  # 4

Blue Nuthatch   # 5

Blue Nuthatch  # 6

Blue Nuthatch  # 7

Blue Nuthatch # 8

Blue Nuthatch   # 9

Blue Nuthatch   # 10

Blue Nuthatch  # 11

Blue Nuthatch  # 12

 
 My personal jottings on the Blue Nuthatch :-

This Nuthatch moves along with bird waves. This bird is around usually a lone bird in the crowd with the other species. There were other scenes in the Old Pump House Road. These times, the birds would gather into a flock of 3-4 birds. Only Nuthatches and not in a bird wave. Of course they are properly scattered and not gleaning as a pack.

 

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch  Sitta frontalis

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- The Velvet-fronted Nuthatch is a smaller bird at 12.5 cm. The bird has a sweet color of violet-blue upper part, a black forehead and a narrow post ocular black stripe. It is a whitish throat followed by a beige under part. Very prominent on this bird is the red bill.

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident at the eastern part of the Indian Sub-continent and an area stretching over to south China, then south to the Greater Sundas and the Philippines. The bird is resident in Malaysia.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a bird of the lowland forest but more of low hills with tall old trees. As expected primary forest where the large girth of the tree trunks are good hunting grounds. They are also seen in fairly high hills but never were the 2 Nuthatches found sharing the same forest.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Primary preferences would be primary forest with fairly tall trees. best would be a forest road around the hill that overlook a valley. So far the bird was most often seen in the Congkak and Perdik forest.
 
Record of bird's calls :-    and Videos
 

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch   # 1

Velvet-fronted [juvenile]  # 2

Velvet-fronted [juvenile]   # 3

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch    # 4

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch   # 5

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch   # 6

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch   # 7

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch  # 8

Velvet-fronted [juvenile]    # 9

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch    # 10

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch   # 11

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch  # 12

 
 My personal jottings on the vVelvet-fronted Nuthatch :-

Best bet would the path in an area where the bird waves would normally be passing through. Keep the eyes focus on the tree trunk usually in the middle storey. The bird do not fly but glides up and down trunks and along the bough. They could still be around after the main wave of birds has left the area.

 

Of the two Nuthatches, the Blue Nuthatches is easier to view and also allowing photography. It's "Moonwalk" movement is less rapid, then the shorter distances between stops. Then the pause is more lasting and compared to a flash of a second by the Velvet-fronted. Perhaps it is the dark color and the Blue Nuthatch which is slightly larger in size when compared to the Velvet-fronted that makes this species easier to spot and follow through.