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Habitat requirements and foraging behaviour of the Corsican nuthatch Sitta whiteheadi


  • Jean-Claude Thibault,

  • Roger Prodon,

  • Pascal Villard,

  • Jean-François Seguin

J.-C. Thibault (correspondence) and J.-F. Seguin, Parc Naturel Régional de Corse, rue Major Lambroschini, B.P. 417, F-20184 Ajaccio cedex, Corsica, France. E-mail: R. Prodon and P. Villard, Biogéographie et Écologie des Vertébrés, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Université Montpellier II, c.c. 94, Place Eugène Bataillon, F-34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France.


We examined the relationship between the Corsican nuthatch Sitta whiteheadi, a passerine endemic to the island of Corsica and Corsican pine Pinus nigra laricio forest, its virtually exclusive habitat, currently restricted to inland mountains. The Corsican nuthatch prefers older Corsican pine stands with tall, large trees, and avoids younger stands, both in the breeding and wintering seasons. This preference is explained by the greater availability of pine seeds from older trees. Territorial adults are almost completely sedentary, a trait that is influenced by seed hoarding behaviour. From late autumn to early spring (i.e., when cones are mature), and during sunny weather (i.e., when cones are open), nuthatches remove pine seeds from cones and cache them on branches and under the bark of trunks. The birds retrieve the cached seeds in cold and wet weather. The presence of old Corsican pine stands appears to be a key-factor in the survival of the Corsican nuthatch, whose habitat is currently threatened by logging and fires.