Sitta frontalis (Swainson, 1820)
by Mrs. Manoshini A/p Appanan & Mr. Mohammad Shahfiz Azman
© Manoshini Appanan

With its beautiful colours and details, Sitta frontalis or Velvet-fronted Nuthatch is one of the most attractive birds in the Sittidae family (Del Hoyo et al., 2008). The Velvet-fronted Nuthatch is also known locally as Pepatuk Dahi Hitam (Jeyarajasingam, 2012). It measures about 12-13.5 cm in length and weighs between 9 to 17 grams (Robson, 2008).

Sitta frontalis is quite a colourful bird with violet-blue upperparts, lesser, and median upper wing coverts, and upper tail area (Del Hoyo et al., 2008). The male has a red bill, violet-blue upperparts, a black forehead and narrow post-ocular stripe, a whitish throat, and pale dull beige underparts (washed lavender on flanks, belly and vent) (Robson 2008; Lim et al., 2020; Jeyarajasingam 2012), while females lack a black post-ocular stripe, and their underparts are slightly more cinnamon-coloured and less lilac, especially on the breast and belly (Robson, 2008). The juvenile is similar to the adult except that the bill is blackish with a fleshy to yellowish gape, the upperparts are slightly duller and greyer, the underparts are washed cinnamon-orange to warm buff with no lilac tones, and the undertail-coverts are pale pinkish-buff with fine dark cinnamon-brown barring (Robson 2008; Lim et al., 2020).

Sitta frontalis can be found in primary, logged, and secondary forests ranging in elevation from the lowlands to nearly 2,200 m above the sea level (Lim et al., 2020; Robson 2008; Jeyarajasingam 2012). This bird forages in the canopy and middle storey, often in small noisy groups or alone, rapidly moving up and down tree trunks (Jeyarajasingam, 2012). It primarily feeds on insects and spiders, which are often caught on tree trunks and branches where the bird forages upside-down (Del Hoyo et al., 2008). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has listed S. frontalis as Least Concern (LC).


  1. BirdLife International. 2016. Sitta frontalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22711216A94283983. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. (2008). Handbook of the Birds of the World, Penduline-tits to Shrikes, Volume 13. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Jeyarajasingam, A. (2012). A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford. pp. 449.
  4. Lim, K.S., Yong, D.L. & Lim, K.C. (2020). A Field Guide to the Birds of Malaysia & Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing. pp. 400.
  5. Robson, C. (2008). Field guide to the birds of South-East Asia (second edition). Bloomsbury Publishing.
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