Clark's Nutcracker

Common Name: Clark's Nutcracker
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Nucifraga
Species: Nucifraga columbiana

photo M. Noonan

Clark's Nutcracker Taxonomy/Description

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 nutcracker.

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.

Clark's Nutcracker Behavior/Reproduction

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 summer.

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 face extinction.

Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.