Clark’s Nutcracker – Profile | Facts | Habitat | Pouch | Nest | Fly

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark’s Nutcracker is a medium-sized bird with long, sharp bills. The Clark’s Nutcracker is the size of a jay however is more like a crow in construct and flight. Its body is primarily grey.

Clark’s Nutcracker profile

It has black wings, and black down the middle of its tail. The outer tail feathers and the undersides of the tail are white, and there are white wing patches on the trailing edges of the wings.

This bird usually lives in locations distant from human contact, close to treeline on windy western peaks. Where it does encounter people, nonetheless, it appears fearless, striding about in picnic grounds and scenic-view parking tons, searching for handouts.

Nutcrackers are champions at burying pine seeds (typically tens of hundreds) in hidden caches in fall, then re-finding them throughout winter; these seed shops permit them to nest in late winter when the forest remains to be coated with snow.


Clark’s nutcracker has a large distribution in zones of coniferous vegetation from the coastal ranges in Canada all through the mountainous areas of the western United States.

It is a local, everlasting resident of the mountainous areas of western North America. Migration is simply altitudinal with a shift to decrease elevations starting in late September.

Clark’s Nutcracker  Overview

High within the mountains of the West, gray-and-black Clark’s Nutcrackers swoop amongst wizened pine bushes, flashing white within the tail and wing.

They use their dagger-like bills to tear into pine cones and pull out giant seeds, which they stash in a pouch beneath their tongue after which carry away to bury for the winter.

Each bird buries tens of hundreds of seeds every summer season and remembers the areas of most of them. Seeds they don’t retrieve play a vital function in rising new pine forests.

Nutcrackers travel in flocks and use their spike-like bills to select seeds out of pine cones. They eat a few of the seeds and bury hundreds of others for the winter. Nutcrackers fly on broad, floppy wings and make rolling, gravelly calls audible from distance.

Clark’s Nutcracker  Description

Clark’s nutcracker is a chunky, jay-sized bird averaging 11 inches long. Its plumage is powder-gray and of unfastened texture. Wings and central tail feathers are shiny blacks.

Wings are long when folded reaching practically to the tip of the tail. The flight is crow-like with deep wing beats and when in flight white wing patches and white outer retries might be seen.

There is average size dimorphism between sexes with males being greater.

Nucifraga columbiana can attain an average size of 28.Eight cm (11.Three in). It is barely smaller than its Eurasian relative the spotted nutcracker (N. caryocatactes).

Most of its body has feathers that can be ashy-grey and unfastened in texture. The wings and tail are black and white. The central tail feathers are black and the outer ones white. The bill, legs, and feet are additionally black. The bill is long, stout, and cone-shaped.


Length: 10.6-11.8 in (27-30 cm)
Weight: 3.7-5.7 oz (106-161 g)
Wingspan: 24 in (61 cm)

Clark’s Nutcracker  Behavior

Behavior is distinctive and simply recognizable. Distance flight is robust and direct. When flying between bushes, the flight is much like a woodpecker, alternating between flapping and gliding.

On the ground, it hops, turning head back and forth, because it harvests seeds. As with different members of the Corvidae family, Clark’s nutcrackers are extraordinarily intelligent.

Studies have been carried out on their extremely developed spatial reminiscence associated with meal caching and retrieval skills.

Family teams be a part of collectively after the younger have fledged to kind unfastened flocks. Nutcrackers usually forage harmoniously with different species of birds as nicely.

When predator menace arises, flocks react by mobbing the predator. Occasionally nutcrackers might harass small raptors, which they will simply outmaneuver.


The voice of this bird is extraordinarily assorted and produces many alternative sounds. However, essentially the most frequent call is usually described as khraaaah-khraaaah.

Clark’s Nutcracker  Food Habits

Though conifer seeds make up nearly all of this nutcracker’s diet, they’ll feed opportunistically on different meal sources. Other meals objects present in their diets embody flying bugs and ants, small vertebrates, eggs and nestlings, and infrequently carrion.

They use their sturdy pointed bills to pry seeds out of unripe cones or to hammer and crush seeds out of their shells. Then they’ll both eat the seeds or place them of their sublingual pouches for caching later.

Ponderosa seeds are their most vital meals by quantity however seed use adjustments with annual variations in seed availability. Seeds are cached at various elevations, with every cache averaging three to 4 seeds.

A single particular person might have hundreds of caches. Seed shops are recovered utilizing visible cues and spatial reminiscence as much as 9 months after being cached.


In the summer season, it prefers habitat within the sub-alpine zone close to the tree line.

The habitat of selection is semi-open, blended stands of pines, fir, and spruce rising on steep slopes and ridges interspersed with meadows and streams. Species of bushes throughout the habitat very geographically.

Nutcrackers will stay on their summer season range as long as meals are accessible. In winter they migrate to decrease elevations and spend the winter foraging and retrieving caches there.

High mountains, conifers close to treeline. Generally breeds at high elevations within the mountains, in the open or broken forest of pine, spruce, or Douglas-fir.

May additionally breed in lower-elevation pine or pinyon-juniper woods when there’s a good cone crop. Wanders to above treeline in the summer season, and will transfer to decrease elevation woods in fall.

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Clark’s Nutcrackers are pale grey birds with black wings. In-flight, the wings present giant white patches alongside the trailing edges (secondaries).

The tail is black within the middle with broad white alongside both sides. Nutcrackers have black bills, legs, and feet.

Clark’s Nutcracker Diet

Omnivorous. Much of diet is pine seeds; the rest of diet fairly assorted, together with different seeds, nuts, berries, bugs, snails, eggs, and younger of different birds, carrion

Forages on the ground and in bushes. Occasionally catches flying bugs within the air, or digs insect larvae out of wooden by pounding with the bill. Will pry open pine cones to extract seeds.

Harvests pine seeds in late summer season and fall, carrying as much as 90 without delay in throat pouch to bury them in soil on uncovered slopes; might retailer 30,000 or more seeds in a single season.

Has an outstanding means to search out these caches later, feeding on them via winter.


2-4, typically as much as 6. Pale green, evenly noticed with brown and grey. Incubation is by each parent, about 16-18 days. Incubating adult sits tightly on the nest even when intently approached.

Young: Both parents take care of and feed younger. Food for nestlings usually consists of pine seeds saved the previous autumn. Young depart the nest about 18-21 days after hatching.

Clark’s Nutcracker  Young

Both parents take care of and feed younger. Food for nestlings usually consists of pine seeds saved the previous autumn. Young depart the nest about 18-21 days after hatching.


Clark’s Nutcrackers are the size of a jay however the form of a crow, with brief tails and rounded crestless heads. The bill is long, straight, and sharp-tipped.


Breeding exercise usually begins in late winter, when territory remains to be snow-covered. Courtship might contain long flights, male following feminine.

The nest site is in a coniferous tree, normally away from the trunk on a horizontal limb, 8-40′ above the ground. Nest (constructed by each sex) is giant and deep; has a platform of twigs and bark fibers supporting a cup of grass, bark strips, pine needles.


Limited information is accessible on the precise inhabitant’s density of Clark’s Nutcracker. Currently, no particular management plans are in place. Long-term fireplace suppression has resulted in superior forest succession. This coupled with the lack of conifer stands as a consequence of illness or insect outbreaks has resulted in the loss or degradation of some historic habitat areas. Changes to piñon pine communities associated with grazing have additionally resulted in some decreases in habitat high quality. These elements might lead to a discount of their numbers in sure areas.


Apparently monogamous with long-lasting pair bonds. Pairs kind in winter months. Courtship shows might be seen all through the year however are most intense within the breeding season.

Courtship behavior consists of speedy flights the place one bird follows its mate at a high pace, each performing varied swoops and dives.

Begging calls, feeding, and different vocalizations have been noticed as a part of courtship. Territories are solely established for nesting functions and a pair might maintain the identical nesting territory for a number of years.

Both members of the pair contribute to nest building. The timing of nesting fluctuates seasonally primarily based on elevation, climate, and meal availability.

Nest location is commonly close to meal shops and is probably not nicely hidden. Nests, which average 11 inches in diameter, are positioned on the more sheltered facet of nesting tree, usually on a south-facing slope.

The height of the nest varies from seven to 70 feet above ground relying on the nesting tree. Placed on one or more branches, the nest platform building supplies embody small twigs woven collectively.

The nest bowl is nicely insulated with the outer half constructed of rotten wooden pulp and the interior bowl lined with high-quality materials.

Brood size averages three eggs, that are laid normally two days after nest building is accomplished. The altricial younger with sparse down hatch nearly synchronously after 18-day incubation.

Growth is speedy and fledging happens roughly 20-22 days after hatching. The family group forages collectively for the rest of the summer season however the younger are utterly impartial by the end of the summer season.

Clark’s Nutcracker Facts

The Clark’s Nutcracker has a particular pouch beneath its tongue that it makes use of to hold seeds long distances. The nutcracker harvests seeds from pine bushes and takes them away to cover them for later use.

The Clark’s Nutcracker hides hundreds and hundreds of seeds every year. Laboratory research has proven that the bird has an incredible reminiscence and might bear in mind the place to search out a lot of the seeds it hides.

The Clark’s Nutcracker feeds its nestlings pine seeds from its many winter shops (caches). Because it feeds the younger on saved seeds, the nutcracker can breed as early as January or February, regardless of the tough winter climate in its mountain house.

The Clark’s Nutcracker is considered one of only a few members of the crow family the place the male incubates the eggs. In jays and crows, taking good care of the eggs is for the feminine solely. But the male nutcracker really develops a brood patch on its chest identical to the feminine and takes his flip protecting the egg’s heat whereas the feminine goes off to get seeds out of her caches.

Not solely do the lives of Clark’s Nutcrackers revolve around their pine seed diet, however, the pines themselves have been formed by their relationship with the nutcrackers. Whitebark pines, limber pines, Colorado pinyon pines, single-leaf pinyon pines, and southwestern white pines rely upon nutcrackers to disperse their seeds.

Over time this interplay has modified their seeds, their cones, and even the bushes’ general form as compared with different pine species whose seeds are dispersed by the wind.

The Clark’s Nutcracker exams a seed for soundness by shifting it up and down in its bill whereas shortly opening and shutting its bill, in a movement referred to as “bill clicking.” It additionally chooses good seeds by color: when foraging on Colorado pinyon pines, it refuses all however darkish brown seeds.

Ounce for ounce, the whitebark pine seeds that many Clark’s Nutcrackers rely upon have more energy than chocolate.

Clark’s Nutcracker is within the crow and jay family—however, the first time Captain William Clark noticed one, in August of 1805, he thought it was a woodpecker.

He and Meriwether Lewis collected a specimen in Idaho on their return journey a year later. Clark’s Nutcracker was considered one of three new bird species introduced back from their expedition, all of which had been described by the naturalist Alexander Wilson.

The oldest recorded Clark’s Nutcracker was not less than 17 years, 5 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased throughout banding operations in Oregon in 1969. It had been banded in the same state in 1952.

Where to search out Clark’s Nutcracker 

Clark’s Nutcrackers are conspicuous birds in open subalpine forests close to treeline within the West, the place they fly with woodpecker-like swoops, perch on vertical pine branches, and jab at cones with their bills.

They’re additionally wide-ranging and transfer via middle-elevation conifer forests, the place they have a tendency to remain close to the cover. A great method to discover them is to pay attention to his or her long, grating calls, given ceaselessly.

If you see one cross by overhead, hold your eyes out as a result of they sometimes travel in small teams. You can also see Clark’s Nutcrackers in campgrounds, picnic areas, trailheads, and high-elevation scenic pullouts in national parks and forests.

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