Giant Nuthatch

Giant Nuthatch Sitta magna is the world’s largest nuthatch. Compact range covers southwest China plus parts of Burma and Thailand. Both ssp. in China: nominate southwest Yunnan and ligea from southern Sichuan to western and central Yunnan (regularly reported at Zixishan between Kunming and Dali), southern Yunnan (Xishuangbanna), and extreme southwest Guizhou. Requires mature forests of pure conifers or mixed coniferous-broadleaved woodland, the destruction, degradation, and fragmentation of which has led to the designation of the giant nuthatch as vulnerable. Has large, black eye-stripes or headbands that extend to sides of mantle and can be broad enough to make birds in profile appear hooded. Crown, nape, and upper mantle pale grey, with black streaking in male. Rest of upperparts and tail darker bluish-grey. Face white; underparts grey. Undertail coverts reddish-brown with white scalloping. Female has duller headbands and is washed buff below. Chestnut-vented nuthatch much smaller than giant, with narrower eye-stripe, uniform blue-grey upperparts, and brick-red flanks. European differs in similar ways as chestnut-vented, but has less contrasting flanks. Dagger-like bill black, grey at base of lower mandible; bill of ligea shorter than nominate’s. Feet brown. Harsh, grumbling, three-note call recalls common magpie; also clear, repeated single-note keep. — Craig Brelsford

THE NUTHATCHES OF CHINA has research on all 12 species of nuthatch in China. Click any link below:

White-cheeked Nuthatch Sitta leucopsis
Przevalski’s Nuthatch S. przewalskii
Giant Nuthatch S. magna
Beautiful Nuthatch S. formosa
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch  S. frontalis
Yellow-billed Nuthatch S. solangiae
Yunnan Nuthatch S. yunnanensis
Chinese Nuthatch S. villosa
White-tailed Nuthatch S. himalayensis
Eurasian Nuthatch S. europaea
Chestnut-vented Nuthatch S. nagaensis
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch S. cinnamoventris


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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