Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006 Japan Times

ANIMAL TRACKER By ROWAN HOOPER

* Japanese name: Gojukara
* Scientific name: Sitta europaea
* Description: The nuthatch is a charismatic, plucky little bird, about the size of a great tit, though a little plumper. It is a subtle blue-gray color above and white below. The sides of the bird, and its tail, are chestnut, but it is unmistakable for two characteristics — the black stripe on the head, and the long, black, dagger-like bill.
* Where to find them: In broadleaved woodlands, especially of oaks. They can also be seen in wooded parks and gardens. Nuthatches are common birds, found from Hokkaido to Kyushu. Look for them on the sides of tree trunks, and clinging to the undersides of branches. They don’t stray far from the woods where they were raised in, but will enter gardens for food, especially if the garden contains a mature oak or beech tree. They nest in holes in trees and can be seen year-round.
* Food: Insects, from caterpillars to cicadas and, as their English name suggests, nuts. Their favorites are hazel nuts, though the birds also eat acorns, beechmast and other nuts and seeds.
* Special features: The Japanese name translates as “50 tit” — a reference to its resemblance to birds in the tit family. It’s a missed opportunity — I think the Japanese name should make reference to the ninja-like black stripe across the birds’ eyes. Fearless and aggressive, they can be seen running up and down trees in fast bursts. You will notice if a nuthatch is in your garden because regular garden birds will stay away. Their call is a loud, ringing “tuit-tuit,” and they also make a rattling “pee, pee, pee” call. The loud crack of nuts is another noise often heard when nuthatches are around. They wedge their shelled nuts in cracks in bark and have a well-developed brain that helps them to remember where they’ve hidden food. Nuthatches live for up to 11 years. When they breed, they raise six to nine chicks; the female incubates the eggs alone, but both sexes feed the young. After 25 days, the young birds fledge and leave the nest.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BIO-IMAGE NET

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