The Algerian Nuthatch
The Algerian nuthatch (Sitta ledanti) was discovered at Djebel Babor in the magnificent Petite Kabylie mountain range in Algeria in October 1975. The small passerine bird is Algeria’s only endemic bird species and is also the only nuthatch found in the country. The bird was discovered by Belgian botanist Jean-Pierre Ledant and his team who were in the area studying the fir tree species of Algeria. It has since been established that the Algerian Nuthatch is restricted to only four areas of mountain forest in northeast Algeria, where the habitat suits its needs. These are on the Guerrouch massif within the Taza National Park, Djebel Babor, Tamentout and Djimla.
Only found in areas above 1000 meters, the higher the altitude the denser the Algeria nuthatch population, which favor nesting in holes in mature pine trees, often making us of abandoned woodpecker nests. The limited range of the Algerian nuthatch contributes to their ‘endangered’ status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature – is the internationally recognized authority on the conservation status of species around the world. The Red List evaluates the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies based on specific criteria and with the help of reputable conservation organizations. Wherever possible, species on the IUCN Red List are evaluated every five years to determine any status change and what action, if any, should be taken. The Algerian nuthatch population is believed to be less than 1,000 breeding pairs with the main threats to its habitat being tree-felling, fire and over-grazing by livestock.
Slightly smaller than its European cousin, the Eurasian nuthatch, the average size of the Algerian nuthatch is 13.5 cm in length, with the short tail, large head and strong feet and bill that are typical in all nuthatches. The male has a black crown with a prominent black stripe from the beak across the eye toward the wing, while the female has a grey crown and eye-stripe. They forage on tree trunks and outer branches of trees, feeding mainly on caterpillars, beetles and spiders, while feeding on nuts and seeds in winter.
There are a number of popular birding sites in Algeria, most of which are along the coastline and mountainous northern regions of the country. The Taza National Park is a must-see for birding enthusiasts, especially with a good chance of spotting an Algerian nuthatch – Algeria’s only endemic bird species.