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Corsican Nuthatch Sitta whiteheadi
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is listed as Vulnerable because its small population has declined in the last decade due to logging and fires, reducing the amount of large, mature Corsican pine Pinus nigra laricio available. Although some forests are regenerating, the slow maturation time of the pine means that potential new habitat does not compensate for the loss of mature pines elsewhere, therefore it is assumed that the population will continue to decline.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Distribution and population
This species is endemic to Corsica, France (del Hoyo et al. 2008). It has a limited and fragmented breeding range which follows the distribution of Corsican pine Pinus nigra laricio, occuring on inland mountain ridges from Tartagine south to Ospedale and Mt Cagna, with main concentrations around the mountains of Cinto, Rotondo, Renoso and Incudine (del Hoyo et al. 2008). Thibault et al. (2010) estimated that Corsican Nuthatch territories occupy c.185 km2 of pine stands on Corsica. The population was thought to number 1,500-4,500 pairs in 2000 and its population and range were thought to be stable between 1970-2000 (Tucker and Heath 1994, BirdLife International 2004). A survey throughout its range between 1997 and 2008 estimated a population of 1,557-2,201 pairs, and estimated that the population had declined by c.10% in the last ten years due to fire and logging (Thibault et al. 2010).

Population justification
Thibault et al. (unpublished data) estimated that the population comprised 1,554-2,196 territories/pairs, hence the population is estimated at c.3,100-4,400 mature individuals. This is equivalent to c.4,600-6,600 individuals in total.

Trend justification
Thibault et al. (2010) estimate a decline of 10% during the last 10 years, owing to forest fires and logging, hence the population decline is placed in the band 10-19% over 12 years (three generations).

Behaviour Forages singly or in pairs, though may join mixed-species flocks outside the breeding season (del Hoyo et al. 2008). Seeds are cached from late autumn to early spring during periods of sunny weather (when the cones are open) and retrieved during wet or cold weather (del Hoyo et al. 2008). Its breeding season stretches from April to May, laying a clutch of 5-6 eggs, with mated partners remaining on their territory all year (del Hoyo et al. 2008).It is generally sedentary except for some dispersal of immature and unmated birds to lower altitudes in winter (Thibault and Bonaccorsi 1999). Habitat Optimal habitat for this species is mature stands of Corsican pine with abundant dead and rotting trunks for nest sites, at elevations of 1,000-1,500 m (del Hoyo et al. 2008). Densities vary between 0.2-3.8 pairs/10 ha, and correlate with tree height, vegetation density and dead tree distribution (Thibault and Bonaccorsi 1999). Suboptimal habitats include forests where Corsican pine is associated with cluster pine P. pinaster, balsam fir Abies alba or beech Fagus sylvatica, and younger, exploited stands of Corsican pine at elevations of 600-1,700 m (Thibault and Bonaccorsi 1999, del Hoyo et al. 2008).Dispersing birds may be found in holm oak Quercus ilex and sweet chestnut Castanea sativa forests, gardens and orchards (Thibault and Bonaccorsi 1999, del Hoyo et al. 2008). Diet Feeds largely on insects and spiders during May-August, switching to seeds, especially those of the Corsican pine, during the rest of the year (del Hoyo et al. 2008).

Forest fires and logging of mature Corsican pine stands appear to be the primary threats to this species. Large trees suitable for the species are also favoured by the logging industry and since the 1970s local foresters have attempted to rejuvenate the pine forest by shortening the logging rotation, reducing the size of trees available for the species (Bourcet 1996). It has been estimated that 78-122 territories have been destroyed by logging since 1998, and that a further 50-63 territories were lost during the large forest fires of 2000 and 2003, which severely affected another 47-80 territories (Thibault et al. 2010, Thibault et al. 2004). It has been predicted that whenever an area >2 ha is logged in a forest stand suitable for the species, a potential territory is likely to disappear for more than a century due to the slow growth of Corsican Pine (Thibault et al. 2010). This species is potentially susceptible to climate change through sea-level rise and shifts in suitable climatic conditions (affecting Corsican pine distribution), however this is not expected to be a serious direct threat (Barbet-Massin and Jiguet 2011; BirdLife International unpublished data). Climate change may also cause an increase in fire frequency and intensity and so could be a serious future threat to the species (Barbet-Massin and Jiguet 2011, J.Baudat-Franceschi in litt. 2010). Climate change may increase interspecific competition between Corsican pine and Maritime pine Pinus pinaster as well as Mediteranean shrub species which in turn could have a negative effect on the species's range (Thibault et al. 2010, J. Baudat-Franceschi in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Underway
No conservation action is known, though its national status of Near Threatened in France may afford some protection (IUCN 2008). Almost the entire global population occurs within the Natural Regional Park of Corse (del Hoyo et al. 2008). Work is being conducted by forest managers to evaluate the carrying capacity of Corsican pine forests for the species.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Research the minimum size of a Corsican pine stand required to support a viable population. Prevent the logging of mature Corsican pine. Develop a plan to prevent forest fires. Prevent the clearance of dead and rotting trunks in managed forests.

Barbet-Massin M, Jiguet F. 2011. Back from a Predicted Climatic Extinction of an Island Endemic: A Future for the Corsican Nuthatch. PLoS ONE 6(3).

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Bourcet, J. 1996. Aperçu sur deux siècles d’histoire forestière en Corse. Revue forestière française 48(6): 563-580.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Christie, D. 2008. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 13: Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

IUCN Comité Français. 2008. Dossier de presse liste rouge oiseaux nicheurs de France métropolitaine. Available at: #

Thibault, J-C., Hacquemand,, D., Moneglia, P., Pellegrini, H., ROGER Prodon, R., Recorbet, B., Seguin, J-F. Villard, P. 2010. Distribution and population size of the Corsican Nuthatch Sitta whiteheadi. Bird Conservation International 0: 1-8.

Thibault, J.-C.; Bonaccorsi, G. 1999. The birds of Corsica. British Ornithologists' Union, Tring.

Thibault, J.-C.; Prodon, R.; Moneglia, P. 2004. Impact des incendies de l’été 2000 sur l’effectif d’une espèce endémique menacée: la Sittelle corse (Sitta whiteheadi). Ecologia mediterranea 30: 63-71.

Tucker, G. M.; Heath, M. F. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

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Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Derhé, M., Ekstrom, J.

Baudat-Franceschi, J., Thibault, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Sitta whiteheadi. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

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Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Corsican nuthatch (Sitta whiteheadi) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Sittidae (Nuthatches and Wallcreeper)
Species name author Sharpe, 1884
Population size 3100-4400 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 2,400 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment