Varied sittella

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Varied sittella
Varied Sittella male (5460379608).jpg
Varied Sittella female (5460381628).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Neosittidae
Genus: Daphoenositta
Species: D. chrysoptera
Binomial name
Daphoenositta chrysoptera
(Latham, 1801)

Neositta chrysoptera

The varied sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera) is a small, around 10–11 cm long, songbird native to Australia and New Guinea. It is also known as the Australian nuthatch, orange-winged sittella and the barkpecker.


The varied sittella was first described by the English ornithologist John Latham in 1801 under the binomial name Sitta chrysoptera.[2]

Sitta is a word taken from nuthatches. The origin of it is unknown. Chryso is Latin for "golden", Ptera for "wing" referring to the distinctive patch of colour in the dark wings.

This species inhabits a broad range, and its appearance changes depending on its location hence the name "varied" sittella. There are five subspecies:[3]

  • D. c. leucoptera (Gould, 1840) - northwest to north-central Australia (white-winged sitella)
  • D. c. striata (Gould, 1869) - northeast Australia (streaked sitella)
  • D. c. leucocephala (Gould, 1838) - east Australia (white-headed sitella)
  • D. c. chrysoptera (Latham, 1801) - southeast Australia (orange-winged sitella)
  • D. c. pileata (Gould, 1838) - southwest, west-central, central and south Australia (black-capped sitella)

The New Guinea subspecies are papuensis (Papuan or New Guinea sitella), sometimes given specific status alba (white sitella), intermedia (intermediate sitella) and albifrons (white-fronted sitella)


Its crown and head can be white, grey or black, and its body is either whitish or grey often streaked with black and grey. Its wings are black, with a broad bar in either white or cinnamon. The iris is dark orange, and the eye-ring legs and feet are orange-yellow. The beak is orange with a black tip that can extend as far as the base. Colouration completely depends on the subspecies, and certain subspecies are known to hybridize. In the future some subspecies may become species in their own right.


Flocks of these birds forage in trees of all heights, often descending down the trunks in a rather nuthatch-like fashion. Calls are short and rather high-pitched.

Laceys Creek, SE Queensland


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Daphoenositta chrysoptera". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Latham, John (1801). Supplementum indicis ornithologici sive systematis ornithologiae (in Latin). London: Leigh & Sotheby. p. xxxii. 
  3. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David (eds.). "Whiteheads, sitellas & whistlers". World Bird List Version 5.4. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 24 January 2016. 

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