Corsican nuthatch

Corsican nuthatch
Sitta whiteheadi

Photo by Daniele Occhiato (PBase)

Common name:
Corsican nuthatch (en); trepadeira-corsa (pt); sitelle corse (fr); trepador corso (es); Korsenkleiber (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Sittidae

This species is endemic to the French island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean.

These birds are 11-12 cm long and have a wingspan of 21-22 cm. They weigh 11-14,5 g.

The Corsican nuthatch is mostly found in mature stands of Corsican pine Pinus nigra laricio
with abundant dead and rotting trunks for nest sites, at altitudes of 1.000-1.500 m. They can also be found in forests where Corsican pine is associated with maritime pine P. pinaster, balsam fir Abies alba or beech Fagus sylvatica, and even in holm oak Quercus ilex and sweet chestnut Castanea sativa forests, gardens and orchards, at altitudes ranging 600-1.700 m.

They mainly eat pine seeds, but also small arthropods including adult and larval insects and spiders. They are known to hide pine seeds among bark and lichens when they are more abundant, in order to eat them when the pine cones are closed.

Corsican nuthatches breed in April-July. They nest in tree cavities, either digging the hole themselves or using old nests of the great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopus major. The nest is 2-30 m above the ground. The female lays 4-6 white eggs with reddish-brown markings, which she incubates alone for 14-17 days. The chicks fledge 22-24 days after hatching. Each pair can raise 2 broods per season.

IUCN status – VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a small breeding range and the global population is estimated at just 3.100-4-400 individuals. The population is estimated to have declined by 10% over the last decade, mainly due to forest fires and logging. Since they mostly use the larger and older trees for nesting, logging regimes limit the availability of breeding territories, while forest fires have a destructive effect on their habitat. Climate change may also cause an increase in fire frequency and intensity and so could be a serious future threat to the species, while also increasing potential inter-specific competition between Corsican pine and maritime pine which could have a negative effect on the species range.

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