They live in forests, often pine coniferous forests, on higher land (montane forests). As usual in such places, insects, nuts and seeds are their food. Unlike other birds, nuthatches can run down trees head-first, and hang upside down. They can run down trees as fast as they climb up them.
Nuthatches use holes in trees for nests. This also means they compete with squirrels and woodpeckers for these holes. In fact both squirrels and the great spotted woodpecker kill nuthatches if they can. Owls and hawks also kill these small birds, but that is not to do with their nest-holes. In defense of their nests, nuthatches make the entrances smaller by packing the edges with mud or tree resin. Predation is not really a threat, just a fact of life for them. Loss of coniferous forest in some countries is a threat. They cannot live in anything else except in trees.
All nuthatches store food, especially seeds. They hide seeds in tree crevices, in the ground, under small stones, or behind bark flakes. These stores are remembered for as long as 30 days.
Most nuthatches do not migrate. They stay in the forest through the winter, where they roost in large flocks. These flocks can have over 100 nuthatches. Sometimes they include other forest birds, such as tits and woodpeckers.
- Harrap, Simon & Quinn, David 1996. Tits, nuthatches and treecreepers. Christopher Helm. ISBN 978-0-7136-3964-3
- Matthysen, Erik; Löhrl, Hans (2003). "Nuthatches". In Perrins, Christopher (ed.). Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. pp. 536–537. ISBN 978-1-55297-777-4.
- Hardling, Roger; Kallander, Hans; Nilsson, Jan-Åke (1997). "Memory for hoarded food: an aviary study of the European Nuthatch" (PDF). The Condor. 99 (2): 526–529. doi:10.2307/1369961. JSTOR 1369961.