Clark's nutcracker

Clark's nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana), sometimes referred to as Clark's crow or woodpecker crow, is a passerine bird in the family Corvidae. It is slightly smaller than its Eurasian relative the spotted nutcracker (N. caryocatactes). It is ashy-grey all over except for the black-and-white wings and central tail feathers (the outer ones are white). The bill, legs and feet are also black. This bird derives its name from the explorer William Clark.

Clark's Nutcracker with wings out, landing on a rock
Clark's nutcracker landing, Mount Hood, Oregon
Clark's nutcracker
Nucifraga columbiana1
In Deschutes National Forest
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Nucifraga
N. columbiana
Binomial name
Nucifraga columbiana
(Wilson, 1811)
Nucifraga columbiana map


It can be seen in western North America from British Columbia and western Alberta in the north to Baja California and central New Mexico in the south. There is also a small isolated population on the peak of Cerro Potosí, elevation 3,700 metres (12,200 ft), in Nuevo León, northeast Mexico. It is mainly found in mountains at altitudes of 900–3,900 metres (3,000–12,900 ft) in conifer forest. Outside the breeding season, it may wander extensively to lower altitudes and also further east as far as Illinois (and exceptionally, Pennsylvania), particularly following any cone crop failure in its normal areas.


Clark's Nutcracker at Crater Lake
Clark's nutcracker at Crater Lake, Oregon

The most important food resources for this species are the seeds of pines (Pinus sp.), principally the two cold-climate (high altitude) species of white pine (Pinus subgenus Strobus) with large seeds P. albicaulis and P. flexilis, but also using other high-altitude species like P. balfouriana, P. longaeva and P. monticola. During migrations to lower altitudes, it also extensively uses the seeds of pinyon pines. The isolated Cerro Potosí population is strongly associated with the local endemic Potosi pinyon Pinus culminicola. All Clark's Nutcrackers have a sublingual pouch capable of holding around 50–150 seeds, depending on the size of the seeds;[2] the pouch greatly enhances the birds' ability to transport and store seeds.

Clark's nutcrackers store seeds, usually in the ground for later consumption, in caches of 1–15 seeds (average of 3–4 seeds).[2] Depending on the cone crop as well as the tree species, a single Clark's nutcracker can cache as many as 98,000 seeds per season.[3] The birds regularly store more than they actually need as an insurance against seed theft by other animals (squirrels, etc.), as well as low availability of alternative foods; this surplus seed is left in the cache, and may be able to germinate and grow into new trees, if the conditions are right. Through this activity of caching and over-storing, the bird is perpetuating its own habitat. Closely tied in with this storage behavior is the bird's remarkable long-term spatial memory; they are able to relocate caches of seeds with remarkable accuracy, even nine months later,[4] and even when the cache sites are buried under up to a meter (3 ft) of snow.

The diet also includes a wide range of insect prey, berries and other fruits, small mammals and occasionally flesh from carcasses. Eggs and nestlings are sometimes devoured, and peanuts and suet have become a favorite at bird tables. Food is taken both from the ground and from trees, where the nutcrackers are very agile among the branches. The birds are able to extract food by clasping pine cones in such a way that the cones are held between one or both feet. The birds then hack the cones open with their strong bills. Rotten logs are also hacked into in order to locate large beetle grubs, and animal dung may be flipped over in search of insects. Clark's nutcrackers can also be opportunistic feeders in developed areas, and are known to some as "camp robbers".


Clark's Nutcracker at Crater Lake 2015
A Clark's Nutcracker nestled on a branch at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

The species usually nests in pines or other types of conifers during early spring. Two to four eggs are laid, incubation usually occurring in 16–18 days. Incubation is performed by both the male and female parents, and the young are typically fledged by around the 22nd day. The fledglings follow their parents around for several months, possibly in order to learn the complex seed storage behavior.

Whitebark pine mutualism

Clark's nutcracker is the primary seed disperser for whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis).[5] Whitebark pine is in decline throughout its range, due to infection by white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola), widespread outbreaks of mountain pine beetle, and the long-term effects of fire suppression.[6] The Clark's nutcracker is an integral part of the whitebark pine restoration process: the Clark's nutcracker must remain in whitebark pine forests and cache the seeds in excess, so that healthy trees will continue to grow.[6] If whitebark pine declines into extinction, the Clark's nutcracker will lose an important source of food and may no longer be seen in areas where the tree is the primary source of seed, such as Glacier National Park.


The voice of this bird is extremely varied and produces many different sounds. However, the most frequent call is commonly described as khraaaah-khraaaah.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Nucifraga columbiana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b Tomback, D. F. 1998. Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana). In A.Poole and F.Gill, editors. The Birds of North America, No. 331. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia.
  3. ^ Hutchins, H.e., and Fr.M. Lanner. 1982. The central role of Clark's nutcracker in the dispersal and establishment of whitebark pine. Oecologia 55:192–201.
  4. ^ Tomback, D. F. 1978. Foraging strategies of Clark's Nutcracker. Living Bird 16:123–161.
  5. ^ Tomback, D. F. 1982. Dispersal of whitebark pine seeds by Clark's Nutcracker: A mutualism hypothesis. Journal of Animal Ecology 51:451–467.
  6. ^ a b Tomback, D. F., S. F. Arno, and R. E. Keane. 2001. Whitebark Pine Communities: Ecology and Restoration. Island Press, Washington, DC.
  • Lanner, R. M. (1996). Made for each other: a symbiosis of birds and pines. OUP. ISBN 0-19-508903-0
  • Balda R., Kamil C., Linking Life Zones, Life History Traits, Ecology, and Spatial Cognition in Four Allopatric Southwestern Seed Caching Corvids, 2006 [1]
  • NatureServe report

External links

Alan Kamil

Alan C. Kamil is an American experimental psychologist. He is the Director, School of Biological Sciences and George Holmes Professor of Biological Sciences and Psychology at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Kamil's work focusses on the evolution of memory and adaptive specializations of learning in many animal species, especially the Clark's nutcracker and other birds. Kamil has published peer reviewed articles on both theoretical aspects of comparative psychology and animal cognition, and on empirical studies of animal learning and memory. In 2013 Kamil was honoured by the Comparative Cognition Society for his contributions to the study of animal cognition.

Arc Dome Wilderness

The Arc Dome Wilderness is a protected wilderness area in the Toiyabe Range of Nye County, in the central section of the state of Nevada in the western United States. It covers an area of approximately 115,000 acres (47,000 ha), Nevada’s largest Wilderness area. Attractions include the 70-mile (110 km)-long Toiyabe Crest Trail offers travelers atop the ridge of the Toiyabe Range, including 30 miles (48 km) within the Arc Dome Wilderness.Wildlife in the Wilderness includes Columbia spotted frog, mule deer, sharp-shinned hawk, golden eagle, Clark's nutcracker, sagebrush sparrow, sagebrush vole, black-throated gray warbler, yellow warbler, northern goshawk, big brown bat, and Great Basin skink.The Arc Dome Wilderness is administered by the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

Bridger Wilderness

The Bridger Wilderness is located in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, United States. Originally established in 1931 as a primitive area, 428,169-acre (1,732.74 km2) region was redesignated as a wilderness in 1964 and expanded to the current size in 1984. The wilderness lies on the west side of the Continental Divide in the Wind River Range and contains Gannett Peak; at 13,809 feet (4,209 m) it is the tallest mountain in Wyoming. The wilderness is a part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

U.S. Wilderness Areas do not allow motorized or mechanized vehicles, including bicycles. Although camping and fishing are allowed with proper permit, no roads or buildings are constructed and there is also no logging or mining, in compliance with the 1964 Wilderness Act. Wilderness areas within National Forests and Bureau of Land Management areas also allow hunting in season.

There are 600 miles (970 km) of hiking trails maintained in the wilderness, but with much of the terrain being steep and with many large mountain peaks to climb, many trails provide access climbing routes. Camping is permitted as long as a distance of at least 200 feet (61 m) minimum is maintained away from lakes and streams. Due to the high altitude associated with this wilderness, it is not uncommon to have freezing weather, especially at night anytime of the year. In the summer months mosquitos can also be a problem.

The largest glaciers in Bridger-Teton National Forest are found in the wilderness. While lower slopes of the mountainsides are dominated by aspen and lodgepole pine, the upper altitudes include lodgepole pine, and numerous species of spruce and fir. Above the timberline at 10,300 feet (3,100 m), the plants are delicate and subject to high human impact and care must be used to stay on trails to minimize natural resource impact which can take decades or more for recovery. Infrequent and rare sightings of grizzly bears have been recorded but black bears are much more common. In addition, most of the megafauna originally indigenous to the region still exist in the wilderness including moose, elk, mule deer, wolverine, bighorn sheep and mountain lion. There have been unconfirmed reports of wolf sightings which may be true due to wolf reintroduction commenced in the late 20th century in Yellowstone National Park to the north. Numerous bird species are found including bald eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon and Clark's nutcracker. The streams have long been home to several species of trout, but stocking of the lakes has increased their numbers there along with mountain whitefish and grayling.

Camp robber

The colloquial name camp robber is used for several North American species of birds (all corvids) known for their fearlessness around humans and their proclivity for stealing food from campers and picnickers:

Gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis)

Steller's jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)

Clark's nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana)

Black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia)


Columbiana may refer to:

In botany:

Arctostaphylos columbiana or hairy manzanita, a plant species native to North America

Calatola columbiana, a species of plant in the Icacinaceae family endemic to Colombia

Clematis columbiana, a species of flowering plant in the buttercup genus Clematis

Crataegus columbiana, several species of Hawthorn plant native to North America

Lewisia columbiana or Columbian lewisia, a species of flowering plant in the purslane familyWolffia columbiana or Columbian watermeal, a perennial aquatic plant in the Duckweed familyIn zoology:

Columbiana (genus), a genus of planthoppers in the subfamily DelphacinaeDictyna columbiana, a Dictynidae species of spider

Nucifraga columbiana or Clark's nutcracker, a species of passerine bird in the family Corvidae

Sicalis columbiana or orange-fronted yellow-finch, a species of bird in the family Emberizidae

Xylophanes columbiana, a species of moth in the family SphingidaeIn U.S. places:

Columbiana, Alabama

Columbiana, Ohio

Columbiana Exempted Village School District, a school district in Ohio

Columbiana High School

Columbiana County, Ohio

Columbiana County Airport, an airport in Ohio

Cropley Lake

Cropley Lake is an alpine lake in the City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska, United States. Located on Douglas Island, it is 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of Table Top Mountain, and 5 miles (8.0 km) southwest of the city of Juneau. Cropley Lake is the source of Fish Creek.


Cyanocitta is a genus of birds in the family Corvidae, a family which contains the crows, jays and magpies. Established by Hugh Edwin Strickland in 1845, it contains the following species:

The name Cyanocitta is a combination of the Greek words kuanos, meaning "dark blue" and kitta, meaning "jay".


Cyanolyca is a genus of small jays found in humid highland forests in southern Mexico, Central America and the Andes in South America. All are largely blue and have a black mask. They also possess black bills and legs and are skulking birds. They frequently join mixed-species flocks of birds.


Cyanopica is a genus of magpie in the family Corvidae. They belong to a common lineage with the genus Perisoreus.

Flores crow

The Flores crow (Corvus florensis) is a species of bird in the family Corvidae.

It is endemic to Indonesia.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forest and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest.

It is threatened by habitat loss.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon State Park is a Colorado State Park located in Gilpin and Jefferson counties northwest of Golden, Colorado. The 11,998-acre (48.55 km2) Front Range park established in 1960 has 36 miles (58 km) of hiking trails. Horse and bicycle travel is allowed on 22 miles (35 km). Facilities include a visitors center, over 100 campsites and over 100 picnic sites.Wetland and riparian plant communities are found along Ralston, Nott and Deer creeks and small ponds within the park. Ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, Douglas fir and aspen are found in forested areas. Commonly seen wildlife includes mule deer, elk, black bear, mountain lion, Abert's squirrel and pine squirrel. Visitors also occasionally spot moose, which are increasing in the park. Common birds include turkey vulture, Steller's jay, Clark's nutcracker, mountain bluebird and mountain chickadee.


The magpie-jays are a genus, Calocitta, of the family Corvidae (crow-like birds) native to the southern part of North America. The two known species are known to form hybrids.

Nutcracker (bird)

The nutcrackers (Nucifraga) are a genus of three species of passerine bird, in the family Corvidae, related to the jays and crows. The genus name is a New Latin translation of German Nussbrecher, "nut-breaker".

Pinus albicaulis

Pinus albicaulis, known by the common names whitebark pine, white pine, pitch pine, scrub pine, and creeping pine, is a conifer tree native to the mountains of the western United States and Canada, specifically subalpine areas of the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range, Pacific Coast Ranges, and Rocky Mountains from Wyoming northwards. It shares the common name "creeping pine" with several other plants.

The whitebark pine is typically the highest-elevation pine tree found in these mountain ranges and often marks the tree line. Thus, it is often found as krummholz, trees growing close to the ground that have been dwarfed by exposure. In more favorable conditions, the trees may grow to 29 meters (95 ft) in height.

Spotted nutcracker

The spotted nutcracker, Eurasian nutcracker, or just nutcracker, (Nucifraga caryocatactes) is a passerine bird slightly larger than the Eurasian jay. It has a much larger bill and a slimmer looking head without any crest. The feathering over its body is predominantly a chocolate brown with distinct white spots and streaks. The wings and upper tail are virtually black with a greenish-blue gloss. It is one of three species of nutcracker. The large-spotted nutcracker (Nucifraga multipunctata), was formerly considered a subspecies of spotted. The other member of the genus, Clark's nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana), occurs in western North America.

Thousand Lakes Wilderness

The Thousand Lakes Wilderness is located within the southern portion of the Cascade Range in northeastern California. The 16,335-acre (66 km2) wilderness was established in 1964 with the passage of the Wilderness Act and is administered by Lassen National Forest. The area lies within Shasta County, midway between the town of Burney and Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Volcanic activity and glaciers have combined to create the current topography. The area is dominated by Crater Peak (8677 ft), the highest point in the Lassen National Forest. The lowest point in the wilderness, 5546 feet, occurs at the base of the volcano. This peak is a reminder of the glacial action that eroded the original, much larger Thousand Lakes Volcano and created the many small lakes and ponds scattered through the region. Some of the volcanic activity is relatively recent—Hall Butte is cinder cone that erupted perhaps 500 years ago.

Despite its name, there are considerably fewer than a thousand lakes—about seven major lakes lie within the wilderness. The largest is Eiler Lake, named after Lu Eiler the person who discovered Thousand Lakes Valley. All of the larger lakes contain populations of trout. Wildlife includes black-tailed deer, black bear, pika, pine marten, northern goshawk, spotted owl, pileated woodpecker, and Clark's nutcracker. Even elk have been known to visit occasionally.

There are four trailheads providing access into the wilderness and approximately 21 miles (34 km) of trails.


The treepies comprise four closely related genera (Dendrocitta, Crypsirina, Temnurus and Platysmurus) of long-tailed passerine birds in the family Corvidae. There are 11 species of treepie. Treepies are similar to magpies. Most treepies are black, white, gray or brown. They are found in Southeast Asia. They live in tropical forests. They are highly arboreal and rarely come to the ground to feed.


Urocissa is a genus of birds in the family Corvidae, a family which contains the crows, jays and magpies. Established by Jean Cabanis in 1850, it contains the following species:

Urocissa is a combination of the Greek words for "tail" (oura) and "magpie" (kissa).

Extant species of family Corvidae

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