The Pygmy nuthatches (Sitta pygmaea) entertained me as I sat having a coffee and a sandwich at Cafe on the outskirts of Estes Park, Colorado. I had driven up from Louisville, starting out early. To sit on a chair with a meadow and the rushing river some 10 metres away and a pair of Nuthatches feeding their young, was the perfect start to my visit to the Rocky Mountain National Park.
The nest box on the face of the hut housed the Pygmy nuthatches chicks. Though out of sight they were well attended by both parents. Apparently the Pygmy Nuthatch is quite a gregarious bird and it is know that the young are often fed by birds other than the parents. However I only saw the two parents visit the hole in the 30 mins I sat there.
Most of the time the parents went foraging in the cottonwood trees besides the turbulent river. However occasionally they would go to ground and pick seeds off the ground in front of my table and chair.
John Audubon knew the bird as the Californian Nuthatch – he knew little about the bird, obtaining a sample from a Captain Beechy via the Zoological Society (ZSL – of which I am a member!). Doing a little research into Pygmy nuthatches, I answered a question I have had since I was a teenager. Why ‘nuthatch’? Apparently it is a corruption of nuthack, which refers to the families ability to hack at seeds, with the long powerful bill.
I did not see anymore Pygmy nuthatches in my time in Colorado and only saw one White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) during my travels, so I was grateful for the cafe owners who had installed the nest box and allowed me to enjoy the company of these engaging and endearing birds. I was also grateful for the excellent coffee, which set me up for the drive high up in the Rockies on the Trail Ridge Road and my encounter with the alpine Rosy finches.