Description of the Clark's Nutcracker

BREEDING MALE

The Clark’s Nutcracker is larger than most jays but smaller than crows, and is related to both.  It is pale gray with black wings, a short black and white tail, and a white face.

 

clark's nutcracker

Female

Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

Similar to adults.

Habitat

High elevation coniferous forests.

Diet

Pine seeds are an important component of the diet, but Clark’s Nutcrackers also eat nuts, berries, and insects, along with eggs and young of other birds.

Behavior

The Clark’s Nutcracker forages both in trees and on the ground, and frequently stores seeds for later retrieval.

Range

Clark’s Nutcrackers are found in mountainous habitat of the western U.S. Their population has increased in recent decades.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Clark's Nutcracker.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

Clark’s Nutcrackers may store tens of thousands of seeds annually, and they have a large capacity for remembering and retrieving these stored seeds over the winter.

Despite being found near the treeline in remote mountains, Clark’s Nutcrackers are often quite tame when it comes to accepting food from humans near campgrounds or trailheads.

During years when food is scarce, Clark’s Nutcrackers sometimes move to lower elevations far from their normal range.

Vocalizations

Calls include a variety of loud, jay-like rattles or yelps

Nesting

The nest is a large platform of sticks and bark fibers with a lining of grasses and pine needles.  It is usually placed 8-40 feet above the ground on conifer limb.

Number: Usuallysually lay 2-4 eggs.
Color: Pale green with fine, dark markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 16-18 days, and leave the nest in another 18-21 days, though continuing to associate with the adults for some time.