Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


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Mollhoff, "Notes on the Nesting Biology of Pygmy Nuthatches in Nebraska," from Nebraska Bird Review (December 1997) 65(4): 150-159.


Copyright 1997, Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.



Pygmy Nuthatches (Sitta pygmaea) were considered to be no more than casual or rare winter visitors to the northwest part of Nebraska by previous investigators (Bruner et al. 1904; Swenk 1918; Haecker et al. 1945; Rapp et al. 1958, 1971). I. S. Trostler's earlier comment that the species was "a rare resident, breeds in Omaha" (Bruner 1896) was later felt to be in error, as evidenced by Bruner's later comment that it was, "A fall and winter visitor . . . not breeding in the state" (Bruner et al. 1904).

The first evidence of breeding was the collection of a juvenile male by Dr. Harrison Tordoff for the University of Kansas on 18 July 1957, 5 miles north of Harrison, Sioux Co. (Ford 1959). A note on nesting in Dawes Co. by Doris Gates was included in the annual nesting report for 1961, but there were no details of date, location, or visual evidence of breeding (Wensien 1962). Unfortunately, I could not locate further details of the report. The next indication of breeding was a report of a pair of adults carrying food to young in a nest in 1970 at Ft. Robinson State Park, Sioux Co. (Rosche 1972). A report of an adult carrying food in 1981 in either Dawes or Sioux County was appended to the nesting report for that year (Bennett 1982). During the Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas Project (1984-89), the species was reported from eight survey blocks in Dawes and Sioux Counties, with one confirmed breeding record (Mollhoff unpublished). More recently, apparent breeding has been reported, without publication of details, from Scotts Bluff and Banner Counties (Grzybowski 1996).

While doing field work on other early-nesting birds in northwestern Nebraska on 3 May 1997, I found Pygmy Nuthatches to be both rather common and very involved in courtship and nest building, and I decided to document this poorly known species. Although I must emphasize that these are only preliminary observations, I feel that an adequate sample size was studied to warrant publication. Further long-term study is planned to gain a better understanding of the breeding ecology of this interesting species.