Eurasian NuthatchSitta europaea is the most widespread nuthatch, ranging from Great Britain and northwest Africa to Kamchatka Peninsula, Japan, and Taiwan. In China, baicalensis in northeast Inner Mongolia and northwest Heilongjiang; amurensis northern Heilongjiang to northeast Hebei; seorsa northern Xinjiang (Altai Mountains); and sinensis southern Gansu east to northeast Hebei and south to Red Basin in Sichuan, thence east to Guizhou, northern Guangxi, Hunan, Jiangxi, and Fujian. Race formosana on Taiwan. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR In China mainly low and moderate altitudes, in southwest China being replaced at high altitudes by Chestnut-vented NuthatchS. nagaensis; but is more montane in northeast China and Taiwan. In various types of woodland, including broadleaved (deciduous and evergreen) and coniferous forest. Moves with ease up and down tree trunks and across branches, searching for insects, spiders, nuts, and seeds, which it may hoard. Also often on ground. Wedges large insects and seeds into cracks in the bark, using its strong, wedge-shaped bill to chisel them open. ID & COMPARISON Race sinensis is blue-grey from large head across upperparts to central tail feathers; wings blackish-grey, stubby tail mostly black at sides with large white subterminal spots. Has long, broad, black eye-stripe. Underparts light reddish-brown, darker on flanks and vent, the latter with white scalloping. Female duller than male; juvenile similar to female. Race formosana has slightly brighter underparts. Races baicalensis and seorsa have white underparts; amurensis has buff belly and faint white eyebrow. Chestnut-vented Nuthatch has duller and greyer underparts than sinensis and stronger contrasting flanks, but must be distinguished with care from female sinensis. Yunnan NuthatchS. yunnanensis has broader black eye-stripe and (usually) prominent white eye-brow. BARE PARTS Large, woodpecker-like bill black; large, strong feet black. VOICE Very vocal, with pulsing dwip-dwip call, usually emitted in sequences of two to four abrupt notes; Chestnut-vented Nuthatch apparently lacks this call. Trilling alarm calls, thin contact calls, and loud, penetrating songs of three to six whistles. — Craig Brelsford
THE NUTHATCHES OF CHINA
shanghaibirding.com has research on all 12 species of nuthatch in China. Click any link below:
Xuanzhong Temple in Shanxi is the best-known place in the world to view Brown Eared PheasantCrossoptilon mantchuricum. A recent visit by British birder Mark Havenhand (see comment below) stimulated me to update my report about my trip to Xuanzhong. Have you been to Xuanzhong? Help birders by leaving a comment below. — Craig Brelsford
I went to Xuanzhong Temple in December and January to photograph Brown Eared PheasantCrossoptilon mantchuricum.
The temple in central Shanxi, China sits in a gorge at an elevation of 1000 m (3,280 ft.). The hills are covered with trees that the locals call baishu (cypress). The setting is picturesque.
The air was bitterly cold; as low as -20°C (-4°F). Bright sunshine made the days cheerful. The temple flock of Brown Eared Pheasant appeared every day.
Elaine Du and I caught an 8 a.m. flight from Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai to Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi. From Taiyuan Airport, we drove our rental car west about an hour through Jiaocheng to Xuanzhong Temple (37.563877, 112.078460).
In the following days I noted other taxa representative of north-central China: Chinese NuthatchSitta villosa villosa, Eurasian NuthatchS. europaea sinensis, Songar TitPoecile montanus stoetzneri, Coal TitPeriparus ater pekinensis, and Beijing BabblerRhopophilus pekinensis.
Many birders balk at ticking semi-wild birds, but if you want an easy tick of Brown Eared Pheasant, then Xuanzhong Temple is the place to go. Note that both Mark Havenhand and I had wild Brown Eared Pheasant far from the temple on the road between Xuanzhong and Jiaocheng.
MAP AND PHOTOS
BirdLife International 2016. Crossoptilon mantchuricum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22679299A92809690. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22679299A92809690.en. (Accessed: 13 Sept. 2023)