Brown-Headed Nuthatch

Last Updated on April 22, 2023 by naime

If you are interested in birding, then the brown-headed nuthatch may be a species that you want to add to your list. These small birds can often be found flitting around pine trees in the southeastern United States and have distinctive calls that make them easy to identify. Despite their size, brown-headed nuthatches are incredibly fascinating creatures with unique behaviors.

One of the most interesting things about these birds is their nesting habits. Unlike many other species of birds, brown-headed nuthatches will often use old woodpecker holes as their nesting sites. They also exhibit cooperative breeding behavior, meaning that multiple individuals will help raise the young rather than just the parents. If you want to learn more about these charming little birds, keep reading!

Physical Characteristics

The brown-headed nuthatch is a small bird species that belongs to the family Sittidae. It measures around four inches in length and weighs approximately one-third of an ounce. The male and female birds look alike, with both having brownish-gray feathers on their back, wings, and tail.

One distinct physical characteristic of the brown-headed nuthatch is its unique head shape. As suggested by its name, it has a brown-colored head with a short bill that curves slightly downwards. Its eyes are black and surrounded by white rings that make them stand out against its dark feathers.

Another interesting feature of this bird is its feet. Unlike most other birds, which have three toes pointing forward and one backward, the brown-headed nuthatch’s toes are arranged differently. Two toes face forward while the other two point backward, allowing it to move easily up and down tree trunks as well as cling onto branches for support.

The overall appearance of the brown-headed nuthatch may seem plain at first glance, but upon closer inspection, it reveals intricate details that make it unique among other bird species. Its compact size and specialized adaptations allow it to thrive in forests across southeastern United States where it resides throughout the year.

Range And Habitat

While the brown-headed nuthatch may not be as visually striking as other bird species, its physical characteristics are noteworthy in their own right. This small songbird stands out with its distinctive brown head and blue-gray back, complemented by a white underbelly. It has a short tail and a long bill that it uses to extract insects from crevices in trees.

Moving beyond appearance, the range and habitat of the brown-headed nuthatch are fascinating aspects of this bird’s existence. Here are some interesting points to consider:

  • The brown-headed nuthatch is found exclusively in the southeastern United States.
  • Its preferred habitats include open pine forests and savannas.
  • Within these areas, they tend to reside in older stands of pines with plenty of deadwood for nesting sites.
  • They have also been known to frequent suburban yards with mature trees and bird feeders.
  • While typically non-migratory, some populations may move slightly northward during winter months.

In addition to these facts about where you can find them, it’s worth noting how these birds behave within their environments. Brown-headed nuthatches are highly social creatures that form tight-knit family groups when breeding season arrives. During this time, males will perform elaborate courtship displays involving acrobatic feats like hanging upside down on branches.

Overall, the brown-headed nuthatch’s unique characteristics make it an intriguing subject for researchers and nature enthusiasts alike. These little birds might not boast flashy feathers or dramatic mating rituals, but they more than make up for it with their charming personalities and important roles within southern ecosystems.

Diet And Feeding Habits

I’m interested in learning about the types of food the brown-headed nuthatch eats, and where they feed. Do they stay in one spot, or move around? They must eat a variety of things, so what kind of food do they look for? And where can they be found? I’m curious to know how they find food, and how they decide where to feed.

Types Of Food

Have you ever wondered what brown-headed nuthatches like to eat? These tiny birds have a unique diet that sets them apart from other species. For starters, they primarily feed on insects such as beetles, ants, and caterpillars. They also enjoy munching on spiders, moths, and termites.

In addition to insects, brown-headed nuthatches will occasionally supplement their diet with nuts and seeds. You might spot one pecking away at a pinecone or cracking open the shell of a sunflower seed. However, these foods are not as crucial to their survival as the protein-rich bugs they consume.

Interestingly enough, brown-headed nuthatches often work together while foraging for food. They’ll form small groups called "mixed-species flocks" with other bird species like chickadees and titmice. This strategy allows them to search for food more efficiently and provides safety in numbers against predators.

Overall, the brown-headed nuthatch has a diverse yet specific diet that helps sustain its active lifestyle throughout the year. By consuming plenty of protein-packed insects alongside some occasional nuts and seeds, these birds can continue flitting around your backyard with ease!

Feeding Locations

Now that we know what brown-headed nuthatches like to eat, let’s talk about where they find their food. These birds are primarily found in pine forests and other wooded areas with plenty of trees. They prefer open spaces within these habitats, such as clearings or edges near water sources.

Brown-headed nuthatches have a unique feeding style that involves clinging to tree trunks and branches while searching for insects. They use their sharp beaks to probe bark crevices and chip away at wood to uncover tasty treats hiding inside. This acrobatic behavior is essential for their survival since it allows them to access hard-to-reach places where many insects reside.

In addition to their preference for pine forests, brown-headed nuthatches can also be spotted in urban environments such as parks and gardens. As long as there are enough trees around, these birds will happily search for food amidst human activity.

Overall, the feeding locations of brown-headed nuthatches reflect their adaptable nature and resourceful habits. Whether clinging onto a pine tree or exploring city greenery, these tiny birds always manage to find something delicious to munch on.

Vocalizations And Sounds

The brown-headed nuthatch is a bird that is known for its unique vocalizations and sounds. They have a variety of calls, such as the nasal "yank yank" or the buzzy "zreeee." These sounds are important for communication between birds, especially during mating season.

Male and female brown-headed nuthatches have different calls, which allows them to recognize each other’s gender. The males’ calls tend to be higher-pitched than females’, and they often use their songs to attract mates. Additionally, these birds also make soft chirps and squeaks while foraging in trees.

One interesting aspect of the brown-headed nuthatch’s vocalizations is their ability to mimic other bird species. They can imitate the calls of chickadees, titmice, and even woodpeckers! This skill likely helps them defend their territory against potential competitors.

Overall, the vocalizations and sounds of the brown-headed nuthatch play an important role in their social interactions and survival. From attracting mates to defending territories, these little birds make big noises that help them thrive in their environment.

Breeding Behavior

The breeding behavior of the brown-headed nuthatch is a fascinating spectacle to behold. Like many other birds, this species exhibits various unique behaviors during their courtship and nesting period. The male bird starts by selecting a suitable nesting site, which could be a hole in a tree or nest box provided by humans. Once he has found the perfect spot, he starts advertising his territory using soft calls.

The female bird responds to the male’s call by visiting his prospective nesting site where she inspects it thoroughly before accepting or rejecting it. If she approves of the location, she joins him inside for a brief moment of intimacy. After mating, both partners work together to build their nest from bark strips, grasses, feathers and other materials they find nearby.

During incubation, both parents take turns sitting on the eggs while one is out looking for food. This continues until hatching time when both parents are fully involved in feeding and caring for their young ones. As with most bird species that mate for life, these pairs have strong bonds that last beyond the breeding season.

  • Watching these tiny birds build nests can evoke feelings of wonder at nature’s intricacy
  • Witnessing them care for each other and their offspring may elicit emotions of warmth and tenderness
  • Observing how committed they are to finding the right partner can inspire feelings of hopefulness
  • Seeing firsthand how much effort goes into bringing new life into the world might make you appreciate all living things just a little bit more

Overall, the breeding behavior of brown-headed nuthatches highlights not only their commitment to family but also how complex and beautiful nature truly is. It reminds us that there is always something new to learn about our planet’s creatures – big or small – if we take the time to observe them closely enough.

Nesting Habits

The brown-headed nuthatch has unique nesting habits that set it apart from other bird species. These birds are cavity nesters, meaning they build their nests inside tree cavities or holes in buildings. They prefer to nest in pine trees and will often excavate their own cavities if necessary.

During the breeding season, males will work tirelessly to attract a mate by performing an elaborate courtship display. Once paired up, both male and female will take part in building the nest together. The female lays her eggs directly on the bare wood at the bottom of the cavity, without any additional nesting material.

Brown-headed nuthatches also exhibit cooperative breeding behavior. This means that non-breeding individuals within a group may assist with raising the young of another pair. This is especially common when resources are scarce or when predation pressure is high.

Overall, these unique nesting behaviors make the brown-headed nuthatch one of the most interesting bird species to observe during breeding season. Their ability to adapt to different environments and cooperate as a social unit makes them highly successful in maintaining healthy populations throughout their range.

See also  Water Pipit

Cooperative Breeding

Cooperative breeding can provide some advantages, such as an increase in the success rate of raising young and an increase in the availability of food. However, there can also be some disadvantages, such as increased competition among nest mates for food and nest space. It’s important to consider both sides of the equation when discussing the pros and cons of cooperative breeding, especially when discussing the brown-headed nuthatch.


Have you ever heard of the brown-headed nuthatch? These small birds are known for their cooperative breeding behavior. While many bird species have individual pairs that take care of their own young, brown-headed nuthatches live in family groups where multiple adults help raise the offspring. This type of breeding has several advantages.

Firstly, with more adults available to help feed and protect the young, there is a higher chance of survival for each chick. If one adult is busy gathering food or defending the nest, another can step in to continue caring for the chicks. This allows for more efficient parenting and reduces the risk of predators attacking unattended young.

Additionally, cooperative breeding helps maintain social bonds within a group. Family members who assist in raising offspring often stay together longer than those without young to care for. This creates a tight-knit community that works together to ensure everyone’s success.

Another advantage is that cooperative breeding allows for flexibility in resource allocation. For example, if food becomes scarce, some individuals may focus on finding resources while others watch over the chicks. By sharing responsibilities based on need, each member can contribute to the group’s overall success.

In conclusion, cooperative breeding offers numerous benefits for brown-headed nuthatches. From increased survival rates and tighter social bonds to flexible resource allocation, this unique behavior plays an important role in these birds’ lives.


Now that we’ve discussed the advantages of cooperative breeding for brown-headed nuthatches, it’s important to note that there are also some disadvantages. One potential drawback is competition among group members. With multiple adults caring for the same offspring, there may be conflicts over who gets to contribute and how much effort each individual puts in.

Additionally, cooperative breeding can limit genetic diversity within a population. Family groups often contain related individuals, which means that mating between them could result in reduced fitness or even genetic disorders. This can ultimately harm the population as a whole if too many offspring inherit these negative traits.

Another disadvantage is that cooperative breeding requires more resources than solitary parenting. With multiple mouths to feed and protect, family groups require larger territories with abundant food sources. If resource availability becomes limited, then the entire group may suffer.

Lastly, while cooperative breeding can strengthen social bonds within a group, it may also lead to isolation from other populations. Brown-headed nuthatches tend to stick with their families rather than interacting with outside birds, which limits opportunities for gene flow and potentially reduces overall genetic diversity.

In conclusion, while cooperative breeding offers several benefits for brown-headed nuthatches such as increased survival rates and tighter social bonds, it also comes with its own set of challenges including competition among group members, reduced genetic diversity, higher resource requirements, and potential isolation from other populations.

Reproduction And Development

How do brown-headed nuthatches reproduce and develop? These small birds have a unique process for reproduction that sets them apart from many other bird species. Mating pairs will excavate their own nest cavities in soft, decaying wood of pine trees or dead branches. The female lays between 3 to 10 eggs, which both parents incubate for about two weeks.

After hatching, the chicks are born naked and helpless with closed eyes. Both parents feed their young by regurgitating insects into their mouths every few minutes throughout the day. As they grow older, the chicks’ feathers begin to develop, and they start to practice flapping their wings. In around three weeks, the chicks fledge out of the nest but remain dependent on their parents until they can fly independently.

As juveniles mature over several months, they molt into adult plumage and gradually become independent of parental care. Brown-headed nuthatches reach sexual maturity at one year old and typically mate for life. They usually breed only once per season but may attempt another brood if conditions allow it.

To summarize:

  • Brown-headed nuthatches create their own nests in soft wood.
  • Parents incubate eggs together for approximately two weeks.
  • Chicks rely on both parents for frequent feeding until fledging from the nest.
  • Juveniles molt into adults over several months before reaching reproductive maturity at one year old.

Conservation Status

The brown-headed nuthatch faces several threats that put its conservation status at risk. Habitat loss and degradation are the primary culprits behind their declining populations. The bird’s preferred habitat is in longleaf pine forests, but these areas have been significantly reduced due to human activity such as logging, agriculture and urbanization.

Another major threat to the brown-headed nuthatch is predators such as snakes, squirrels, raccoons and birds of prey. These animals often raid their nests for eggs or young chicks, leading to a decline in their population numbers. Climate change also poses a threat since it can alter the forest ecosystem by altering rainfall patterns and temperatures while increasing the frequency of intense weather events like hurricanes.

To mitigate these threats, various organizations have undertaken measures to conserve this species. For instance, prescribed fires are used to manage longleaf pine forests and create more nesting opportunities for the bird. Additionally, nest boxes are installed near homes with suitable habitats to provide additional breeding sites away from natural predators.

Overall, despite concerted efforts towards conservation, the brown-headed nuthatch remains vulnerable to extinction due to ongoing habitat destruction and fragmentation. Therefore continued research on effective management strategies will be necessary if we hope to protect this beloved bird species for generations to come.

Conservation Status Threats
Endangered Habitat loss and degradation
Climate change
Conservation Measures Description
Prescribed fires Used to manage longleaf pine forests
Nest boxes Installed near homes with suitable habitats
Research on management Necessary for effective protection of this bird species Habitat restoration Can be an effective way to increase the population of this bird species.

Threats And Challenges

The brown-headed nuthatch is facing a range of threats and challenges that are affecting its population. One major threat is habitat loss, as extensive logging and land-use changes in the southeastern United States have resulted in significant declines in pine forests, which are home to these birds.

Another challenge for the brown-headed nuthatch is competition from other bird species. As a small bird with specialized habitat requirements, they may struggle to compete with larger, more generalist species like blue jays or chickadees for food and nesting sites.

A third issue facing the brown-headed nuthatch is climate change. Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns could affect their breeding success by altering the timing of insect emergence or reducing available food sources during critical times of year.

Finally, human disturbance can also impact these birds. Recreational activities such as hiking, camping, and off-road vehicle use can disrupt nesting sites and cause stress on populations already struggling against other threats.

  • Habitat loss due to logging
  • Competition from larger bird species
  • Climate change’s impact on breeding success
  • Human disturbance through recreational activities

It is crucial that we take action to address these threats if we hope to protect this unique bird species. By preserving pine forests, managing competing bird populations, mitigating climate change impacts, and minimizing human disturbance in their habitats, we can help ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the beauty and diversity of our avian friends.

Interactions With Humans

Despite its small size, the brown-headed nuthatch faces numerous threats and challenges. Habitat loss due to urbanization and logging is a major concern for this bird species. Climate change also poses a threat as it alters the timing of important events like nesting and migration.

Another challenge faced by the brown-headed nuthatch is predation from snakes, raccoons, and other predators. The introduction of non-native species such as European starlings and house sparrows has also led to increased competition for resources.

Despite these challenges, humans have played an active role in helping to conserve the brown-headed nuthatch population. Efforts include creating artificial nest boxes, restoring longleaf pine forests, and reducing pesticide use in areas where they live.

As interactions between humans and wildlife continue to evolve, it is important that we remain mindful of our impact on their habitats. By working together towards conservation efforts, we can ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the beauty and diversity of birds like the brown-headed nuthatch.

Positive Interactions Negative Interactions
Artificial Nest Boxes Habitat Loss
Habitat Restoration Non-Native Species
Reduced Pesticide Use Predation

Through positive interactions such as providing artificial nest boxes or habitat restoration efforts, humans have helped mitigate some of the negative impacts faced by the brown-headed nuthatch. However, there are still significant threats posed by habitat loss and non-native species introductions. It is essential that we continue to work towards sustainable practices that preserve biodiversity for future generations without endangering existing populations.

By understanding how human actions impact our natural world, we can make informed decisions about conservation efforts moving forward. Whether through policy changes or individual action, every effort counts when it comes to protecting vulnerable species like the brown-headed nuthatch. Let us all do our part in making sure that these beautiful birds continue to thrive in their natural habitats.

Relationship With Other Bird Species

The brown-headed nuthatch has a unique relationship with other bird species in its habitat. It is often seen foraging alongside pine warblers, Carolina chickadees, and tufted titmice. These birds share similar feeding habits and are found in the same areas as the nuthatches.

While they may compete for food at times, these species also benefit from each other’s presence. For example, the nuthatch’s habit of pecking holes in trees creates nesting opportunities for woodpeckers and other cavity-nesting birds. In turn, these birds help to maintain healthy forests by controlling insect populations.

Another interesting aspect of the brown-headed nuthatch’s relationships with other species involves its use of communal roosts during colder months. These roosts can contain up to 30 individuals, including not only nuthatches but also chickadees and kinglets. The group huddles together to conserve heat and increase their chances of survival through harsh winter weather.

See also  Scaled Quail

Overall, the brown-headed nuthatch plays an important role in its ecosystem by interacting with and supporting other bird species. Its ability to coexist peacefully while still competing for resources highlights the complex web of relationships that exists within nature without requiring overt cooperation or collaboration between different animals.Instead it simply occurs naturally as part of their ecology.

Interesting Facts And Trivia

The brown-headed nuthatch is a small bird that can be found in the southeastern part of the United States. These birds are known for their distinctive appearance, which includes a brown head and back, blue-gray wings, and a white belly.

One interesting fact about the brown-headed nuthatch is that they often work together to build their nests. They will take turns carrying materials such as bark and feathers to the nesting site. Once at the site, one bird will hold the material while another uses its sharp bill to pound it into place.

Another unique characteristic of this species is their reliance on pine trees for both food and shelter. Brown-headed nuthatches are able to cling to the rough bark of pine trees using their strong feet and specialized claws. They also feed on insects that live within the tree’s needles and cones.

Despite being relatively common in some areas, brown-headed nuthatches face threats from habitat loss due to logging and development. Conservation efforts have been put in place to protect these birds, including creating protected habitats and promoting sustainable forestry practices.

Fun Facts About Brown-Headed Nuthatches
1. Their scientific name is Sitta pusilla 2. They communicate with each other through various calls 3. They typically lay between four to seven eggs per clutch 4. Brown-headed nuthatches are known for their acrobatic abilities

Overall, brown-headed nuthatches are fascinating creatures that play an important role in many ecosystems throughout the southeastern United States. By learning more about these birds and supporting conservation efforts, we can help ensure that they continue to thrive for generations to come.

Tips For Birding And Observing Brown-Headed Nuthatches

To observe brown-headed nuthatches, it’s important to know their habits and behaviors. These small birds are often found in pine forests, where they search for insects on the tree bark. They have a distinctive call that sounds like a nasal "yank yank" and can be heard from afar.

One great way to attract brown-headed nuthatches is by providing them with food. Consider putting up a bird feeder filled with sunflower seeds or suet cakes. You can also create a nesting box for them using specific dimensions recommended for these birds. Watching them raise their young can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

When observing brown-headed nuthatches, remember to approach quietly and slowly. Try not to make sudden movements or loud noises that could startle them away. If you’re patient enough, you may even see them engage in some interesting social behaviors, such as allopreening – grooming one another’s feathers.

In summary, observing brown-headed nuthatches requires patience and knowledge of their habitat and behavior. By attracting them with food and creating nesting boxes, you increase your chances of seeing these fascinating birds up close. So grab your binoculars and head out into the woods – who knows what avian wonders await!

  • To truly appreciate the beauty of these birds, take note of their unique features: the blue-gray back contrasting with its rusty-colored belly and cap.
  • Witnessing their synchronized acrobatics while clinging to trees upside down will leave you in awe.
  • Take time during your observation to reflect on how mankind’s impact on nature affects creatures like this tiny bird species that relies heavily on mature pine forests for survival.

Resources For Further Reading And Learning

As we learned in the previous section, observing brown-headed nuthatches can be a rewarding experience for birders. But there’s always more to learn about these fascinating birds! If you’re interested in diving deeper into their world, here are some resources that may help.

Firstly, consider checking out "The Brown-Headed Nuthatch: A Guide to Its Natural History and Conservation" by William Post and John Sutter. This book provides an in-depth look at the behavior, habitat, and conservation status of this species. It also includes stunning photography and helpful tips for identifying nuthatches in the field.

Another great resource is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website. They have a wealth of information on all kinds of birds, including brown-headed nuthatches. You can find recordings of their calls, maps showing where they live across North America, and even participate in citizen science projects aimed at studying these birds further.

If you prefer podcasts or videos over books and websites, then check out Audubon’s "BirdNote" podcast episode on brown-headed nuthatches or The Infamous One’s video titled "Brown-Headed Nuthatch – Cute Little Clowns!" These sources provide entertaining yet informative content that will deepen your understanding of these unique creatures.

Ultimately, no matter which resource(s) you choose to explore further learning about brown-headed nuthatches with, keep enjoying watching them fly around from tree to tree as they sing sweet songs while searching for insects!

Resource Description
"The Brown-Headed Nuthatch: A Guide to Its Natural History and Conservation" by William Post and John Sutter Book providing an in-depth look at behavior, habitat & conservation status of species; includes helpful identification tips + stunning photos
Cornell Lab of Ornithology website Online hub filled w/ info on various birds (including brown-headed nuthatches); features audio recordings, maps of where they live in North America & opportunities to participate in citizen science projects
Audubon’s "BirdNote" podcast episode on brown-headed nuthatches Podcast episode filled w/ entertaining yet informative content; presents a deeper understanding of unique creatures like these birds
The Infamous One’s video titled "Brown-Headed Nuthatch – Cute Little Clowns!" Video providing an enjoyable way to deepen your understanding of the species by seeing them fly around from tree to tree as they sing sweet songs while searching for insects.

In summary, there are many resources available that can help you learn more about brown-headed nuthatches and their behavior. Whether you prefer reading books or websites, listening to podcasts, or watching videos, there is something out there for everyone interested in exploring this fascinating bird further. So keep learning and enjoying observing these amazing creatures!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Brown-Headed Nuthatches Communicate With Each Other?

Communication among animals is a fascinating subject. Many species have unique ways of communicating with each other, such as through vocalizations or body language. Some even use chemical signals to convey information. Scientists believe that communication helps these creatures survive and thrive in their respective environments. Understanding how different animals communicate can provide insight into the complexities of the natural world and help us appreciate the diversity of life on Earth.

Do Brown-Headed Nuthatches Have Any Predators?

Imagine a small bird, no bigger than the size of your palm. It’s perched on a tree branch, its head constantly moving as it looks around for danger. This is the reality for many birds, including our Brown-headed Nuthatch. While they may seem too quick and agile to be caught by predators, they are not immune to attacks from larger animals such as snakes, hawks, and even domestic cats. In fact, studies have shown that these predators can significantly impact the population of this species in certain areas. So while Brown-headed Nuthatches may be masters of communication and survival techniques like caching food, they still face threats from their natural environment.

Are Brown-Headed Nuthatches Capable Of Flying Long Distances?

Yes, they are! Brown-headed nuthatches are small birds that can fly long distances. In fact, some species of nuthatches have been known to migrate up to 2,000 miles in a single journey. While not all nuthatches migrate, those that do often travel significant distances to find food and suitable nesting sites. Even when they’re not migrating, these little birds are quite active flyers as they flit through trees in search of insects and seeds to eat. Despite their small size, brown-headed nuthatches are capable fliers who cover impressive ground on a regular basis.

How Do Brown-Headed Nuthatches Protect Their Nests From Predators?

To protect their nests from predators, birds use various techniques. Some build their nests in hard-to-reach locations or camouflage them with materials found nearby. Others rely on communal defense mechanisms and flock together to fend off potential threats. Additionally, some species have developed intricate warning calls that alert the group of danger. Each bird has its own unique way of protecting its nest, ensuring the safety and survival of future generations.

Are Brown-Headed Nuthatches Social Birds Or Do They Prefer To Be Solitary?

Brown-headed nuthatches are social birds and prefer to live in groups. They are known for their cooperative breeding behavior, where multiple individuals help care for the young in a single nest. These birds also communicate with each other using various vocalizations, such as trills and calls, which helps them coordinate their activities within the group. Even when foraging or searching for food, brown-headed nuthatches tend to stick together in small flocks rather than being solitary. Overall, these birds thrive on social interaction and cooperation with others of their kind.


In conclusion, the Brown-headed Nuthatch is a unique bird species that has adapted to its environment in several ways. They have developed specific communication methods such as calls and songs to interact with each other, and they are also capable of flying long distances when necessary. However, these birds face predators like snakes and raccoons which can sometimes threaten their existence.

Despite these challenges, Brown-headed Nuthatches still manage to protect their nests from predators by building them in tree cavities or using natural materials like spider webs. These social creatures prefer to live in small groups but can be solitary if need be. Overall, the Brown-headed Nuthatch is an amazing creature that perfectly blends into its surrounding habitat through its unique characteristics and behaviors.

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