Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be fluctuating, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 10,700,000-21,400,000 pairs, which equates to 21,400,000-42,800,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). National population estimates include c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs in China, c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs in Taiwan, c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs in Korea and c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs in Japan (Brazil 2009). The global population is likely to fall in the range 10,000,000-500,000,000 mature individuals.
The population is suspected to be fluctuating owing to fluctuations in food availability. In Europe the population trend between 1980 and 2013 was estimated to be undergoing a moderate increase (EBCC 2015).
This species inhabits mature forest with large old trees and a well-developed canopy providing extensive foraging areas, as well as nesting cavities. In much of Europe it prefers deciduous and mixed forest, especially oak (Quercus), but is also found in riverine woodland, parkland, old orchards, cemeteries, and sometimes large gardens and locally occupies in old spruce (Picea) and pine (Pinus) forests, especially in the mountains. It occupies similar habitats in the Far East. In Morocco it is found in oak forest as well as fir (Abies) and cedar (Cedrus). In European Russia and throughout much of the range in Siberia it is found in coniferous woodland and even quite stunted larch (Larix) forest in the forest-tundra zone, but at very low densities. Egg-laying occurs mainly from late-April to May but varies with latitude and altitude. The nest is a foundation of wood chips surmounted by bark flakes and rarely incorporating dry leaves, lichen, conifer needles and the like. It is sited in the hole in a tree, which is either natural or, more often an abandoned woodpecker hole. On occasion it will use a nestbox or a wall cavity, hole in a rock face or building or crevice between tree roots. Clutches are typically five to nine eggs. It feeds on insects but in the autumn and winter it takes seeds, nuts and sometimes flower buds and sap. It will readily visit bird tables in the winter. The species is generally sedentary, but juveniles may disperse over short distances in late summer and autumn; occasionally these movements become irruptive (Harrap 2015).
The main threat to this species is forest destruction and fragmentation, which has lead to local declines and extinctions throughout its range. It is generally rare or absent from small forest fragments and the species does not inhabit areas without mature trees (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997, Harrap 2015).
Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. There are currently no known conservation measures for this species within Europe.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Locally, this species would benefit from protection of its forest habitat and management should ensure that large, mature trees remain.
Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J. & Khwaja, N.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Sitta europaea. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/03/2023.