Varied Sittella

Did you know?

The feet of the Varied Sitella are small but with very long toes for clinging onto branches. They move in spirals down trees, searching for food, and even hang below branches.

The contact call is a single 'chip' sometimes developing into a rapid chatter. Flocks call noisily when foraging.
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
June to April.
Clutch Size: 
13 days
Nestling Period: 
18 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Varied Sitella is a small, short-tailed, dumpy bird which is usually heard before it is seen in the upper branches. There are five sub-species, differing in the patterns on the head and neck, the amount of streaking and in the wing patterns. The iris is orange-yellow, and the eye-ring, legs and feet are yellow. The bill is long and slender and slightly up-turned. All adults are greyish above and white below, with varied streaking. The upper tail coverts are pale, with dark-barring underneath. The tail is dark with a white tip. The upper wings are dark; in southern and eastern birds the underwings have an orange-rufous band, while in the north the band is white. Males have longer bills than females and tend to feed lower. Sitellas are usually seen in flocks, moving swiftly between trees or foraging busily over branches or the trunk. This species has many names including Black-capped or Orange-winged Sitella, Nuthatch or Barkpecker.

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The Varied Sitella's distinctive shape, size, calls and foraging behaviour make this species unmistakeable.

Where does it live?

Varied Sitellas are endemic (only found in) and widespread in mainland Australia.


Varied Sitellas are found in eucalypt woodlands and forests throughout their range. They prefer rough-barked trees like stringybarks and ironbarks or mature trees with hollows or dead branches.

What does it do?

Varied Sitellas feed mainly by gleaning on tree trunks or branches, moving downwards or along branches, searching for insects. They land at the top of a tree and work downwards, searching and poking into cracks and under things, chattering noisily.


The Varied Sitella's nest is a deep open cup, like a cone, of bark and spider web, decorated on the outside with long pieces of bark, camoflaged to look like the fork or branch where it is placed. This species usually breeds cooperatively, with the breeding pair having several helpers. They will sometimes also breed in single pairs. Only the breeding female incubates the eggs and broods the young. All help to feed the young and remove faecal sacs.

Living with us

Varied Sitellas may have declined in some areas following the clearing of habitat and removal of woodland.

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