Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis frontalis, Skytree Nature Reserve (21.627439, 101.588108), Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Yunnan, China, elev. 730 m (2,380 ft.), March. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch is a distinctive tropical nuthatch. Forages restlessly for insects and spiders along branches and up and down tree trunks. Almost never goes to ground. (Craig Brelsford)
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
Adult Velvet-fronted Nuthatch has a bright red bill, unique among nuthatches. Male has black postocular stripe, absent in females. Female has beige underparts washed cinnamon. Skytree Nature Reserve (21.627439, 101.588108), Yunnan, elev. 730 m (2,380 ft.). (Craig Brelsford)

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis is a distinctive tropical nuthatch with a bright-red bill. Large range extends from India to south China, Southeast Asia, the main Indonesian islands, and the Philippines. In China, nominate in western, southern, and southeast Yunnan, central and southern Guizhou, and western Guangxi. Regularly recorded Guangdong andm Hong Kong, but those birds may have captive origins. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Forest, generally at low altitudes. In pairs and small parties, recostlessly foraging for insects and spiders along branches and up and down tree trunks, usually in upper and middle canopy; almost never on ground. ID & COMPARISON Similar in habits, morphology, plumage, and voice to Yellow-billed Nuthatch S. solangiae, but has red bill. Male has striking violet-blue upperparts, velvety-black forehead, and black postocular stripe. Red orbital ring. Yellow orbital skin encircles conspicuous yellow iris. Underparts beige with wash lilac in male, cinnamon in female. Female has no postocular stripe. Juvenile duller above and below and has cinnamon bars on undertail coverts. BARE PARTS No other nuthatch has red bill. Bill blackish in juvenile. Feet brown. VOICE Sharp, metallic calls and rattling song. — Craig Brelsford

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

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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