Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Clark's Nutcracker

Scientific classification
Binomial name
Nucifraga columbiana
Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) is slightly smaller than its Eurasian relative and more matches that region's Jay in size. Ashy-grey all over except for the black wings and central tail feathers (the outer ones are white). The bill, legs and feet are black also. This birds shape has been described as a cross between a Woodpecker and a Crow.

Occurring in western North America from British Columbia and western Alberta in the north to Baja California and western New Mexico in the south. Outside the breeding season, it may wander extensively further east as far as south western Texas and Kansas. It is mainly found in mountains at altitudes of 900-3900 m in conifer forest.

Food is predominantly the seed of various Pines (Pinus sp.) and also includes a wide range of insect prey, berries and other fruits, small mammals and occasionally flesh from a large carcass. Eggs and nestling's are of course also taken and peanuts and suet have become a favorite at bird tables. Food is taken both on the ground and in trees (where it is very agile among the branches) where cones are held between one or both feet and hacked open with the strong bill. Rotten logs are hacked into for large beetle grubs and animal dung is flipped over in search of insects also. Surplus Pine seed is stored usually in the ground for leaner times.

Nesting is usually in various conifers surprisingly, not always on the sunny side and alway very early in the season.. Wind protection seems to be of more value for nest placement. There are normally 3 eggs laid, rarely more, or less than this. Incubation is usually 16-18 days and usually fledged by around the 22nd day. The young follow their parents around for several months after fledging.

The voice is extremely varied and many sounds are made but the most frequent is usually described as khaaa-khaaa-khaaa or khraa-khraa-khraa, usually in a series of three.

This bird is named after the explorer William Clark.

External image link

Other names: Clark's Crow or Woodpecker Crow.