Common Name: Clark's Nutcracker
Species: Nucifraga columbiana
photo M. Noonan
Clark’s nutcracker belongs to the
family, Corvidae, in the Avian Order Passeriformes.
Passeriformes is the order of perching birds. Corvidae
is the jay, magpie and crow family. Clark's nutcracker's
scientific name is Nucifraga columbiana. The generic
name, nucifragra, means "nut break", referring to this
bird’s ability to extract the seeds from acorns and
other nuts. Its specific name, columbiana, refers to
British Columbia, which is an area within its range.
This bird is named for Brigadier General William Clark
(1770-1828) of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition
through the Louisiana Purchase from 1804-1806. Adult
Clark’s nutcrackers weigh about five ounces and grow to
11in in length. This bird’s body is light grayish brown
with black wings and tail feathers.
Clark's Nutcracker Habitat/Diet
The range of Clark’s nutcracker
extends across the western portion of North America. The
Rocky Mountains and surrounding regions compose this
species’ primary range. Open forests with meadows near
the montane treeline region are preferred by Clark’s
The primary diet of Clark’s
nutcracker is conifer seeds. Sublingual pouches allow
the nutcracker to transport surplus seeds to a food
cache. Clark’s nutcracker has an extreme memory,
remembering the locations of many different food caches.
Insects, small vertebrates and carrion are also eaten.
As a monogamous species, Clark’s
nutcracker pairs share nest-building, incubating and
young caring. The female lays three eggs. They are
incubated for 18 days. The young are fledged at 20-22
days. They will forage with their parents for the
summer, but will become independent by the end of the
Clark's Nutcracker Conservation
Clark’s nutcracker is not
endangered. It is numerous throughout its range.
However, if care is not taken to preserve its habitat
from human interference, Clark’s nutcracker may one day