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Clark's Nutcracker

Nucifraga columbiana

Length: 12 inches Wingspan: 18 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Gray body with black wings.  White wing patch and tail edges more obvious in flight.

Clark's Nutcracker - Nucifraga columbianaClark's Nutcrackers are normally birds of high elevation forests in the West.  Aptly named, they gather and bury many pine and other seeds for later retrieval.  Clark's Nutcrackers generally act quite tame around humans, bordering on aggressive as they forage for our refuse.

Habitat: Usually found in high elevation conifer forests of the Rocky Mountains. 

Diet: Omnivorous.  Feeds heavily on pine seeds when available, also other seeds and nuts, fruits, berries, insects, birds, eggs, amphibians, reptiles, and carrion and garbage.

Behavior: Often forages by clambering along the ground or through the branches of a tree.  They use their strong bill to pry open pine cones for seeds, also using it to dig insects out of wood.  A single bird may store thousands of seeds, for later retrieval during scarce winter months.

Nesting: March through May

Song: Wide variation of vocalizations, most commonly a harsh kaaaaaaaaaawwww.

Migration: Complex, poorly understood migrations.  Clark's Nutcracker is normally a bird of the Rocky Mountains.  However, they sometimes move outward from that core in large numbers during the fall. 

Interactive eBird Map: Click for access to an interactive eBird map of Clark's Nutcracker sightings

Similar Species: Gray Jay

Bird Feeders: Will come to feeders for sunflower seeds and nuts.

Conservation Status: Numbers are generally stable.  Has adapted well to a human presence in some areas.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Clark's Nutcracker

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Clark's Nutcracker"

3) Clark's Nutcracker

Photo Information: August 9th, 2007 - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Clark's Nutcracker photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Clark's Nutcracker - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Rare but permanent resident in the Black Hills, accidental elsewhere in the state.

Additional Clark's Nutcracker Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Clark's Nutcracker - Nucifraga columbianaClark's Nutcracker - Nucifraga columbianaClark's Nutcracker - Nucifraga columbianaClark's Nutcracker - Nucifraga columbiana