Why are they called nuthatches?

Answered by Tom Adger

Nuthatches are called nuthatches because of their unique behavior of “hatching” out seeds from nuts and acorns. This behavior is quite fascinating and is the reason behind their common name. Let me explain it in more detail.

Nuthatches are small birds known for their strong bills and agile climbing abilities. They have a clever strategy for accessing the seeds hidden inside nuts and acorns. They first locate a suitable crevice or crack in tree bark, preferably one that is deep enough to hold the nut or acorn securely. Once they find a suitable spot, they jam the nut or acorn into the crevice, using their bill to wedge it in tightly.

Now comes the interesting part – the nuthatch then uses its sharp bill to repeatedly strike the nut or acorn. By whacking it with precision and force, the bird is able to crack open the shell and expose the seed inside. This behavior resembles the action of a bird “hatching” out the seed from within the nut or acorn. Hence, the name “nuthatch” seems quite fitting for these resourceful little birds.

It’s truly remarkable to observe nuthatches in action. Their bill is perfectly adapted for this task, allowing them to exert enough force to crack open even the toughest shells. Their persistence and skill in obtaining food in this way is admirable.

Additionally, nuthatches have a distinct vocalization that further adds to their unique identity. Their loud and nasal yammering is often heard in the forest, and it can be quite distinctive. This vocalization serves several purposes, including communication with other nuthatches, territorial defense, and attracting mates. Their loud voices can often lead you right to them, making it easier to spot these small but vocal birds.

Nuthatches are called nuthatches because of their behavior of jamming nuts and acorns into tree bark and using their sharp bills to “hatch” out the seed from within. This behavior, along with their loud vocalizations, makes them fascinating and easily recognizable birds in the avian world.