Pig Nuts – when you are just too lazy to say the whole name

Pygmy Nuthatch in full view

Pygmy Nuthatch in full view

I have always been fascinated by Pygmy Nuthatches. When I was living in the Bozeman area, I rarely got to see the,, and as soon as I moved to Missoula, I have been seeing unreal numbers. They seems to be in each and every ponderosa pine, picking at the branch-tip cones. Like a circus act, they hang upside down and walk along the thinnest branches and needles. Their high-pitched calls pierce through the thickest stands.

Frenetic is the word most often used to describe the Pygmy Nuthatch, and it is indeed apt. They seem to be in constant motion, so you can imagine the difficulties that present the photographer. A small bird that feeds normally high in the canopy and it never slows down.

This winter season, I have observe the Pygmy Nuthatch foraging in the company of its cousins, the Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, along with Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees. Even in several occasions, Golden-crowned Kinglets joined the buffet.

Typical view of the Pygmy Nuthatch

Typical view of the Pygmy Nuthatch

Foraging partner - Red-breasted Nuthatch

Foraging partner - Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Mountain Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

Even with all of these frenzy of motion, the Pygmy Nuthatch lives within an incredible social framework. During these winter months, you will see the nuthatches traveling through the ponderosa pine forest in large groups that exhibit a high level of cohesion. Once they entered into breeding season, a breeding pair will typically have several helpers. These helpers are thought to offspring from the previous year. Outside of the breeding season, Pygmy Nuthatches communally roost in a cavity, and these jars (the collective term for nuthatches) of nuthatches can number up to 100 individuals. in fact, a lone Pygmy Nuthatch has never been reported to be roosting alone. Now that is what I call a social creature.

Written by Radd Icenoggle

I am a native Montanan, who has spent a lifetime as an outdoors and wildlife enthusiast. I earned a degree in biology with an emphasis on habitat relations. During my studies, I had the great fortune to research and compose a thesis that explored the effects of slope aspect on...
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