Clark's Nutcracker

ID Info
  • Clark's Nutcracker
  • Clark's Nutcracker
  • Clark's Nutcracker
Silhouette NutcrackersNutcrackers

Clark's Nutcracker

Nucifraga columbiana
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Corvidae
Basic Description

High in the mountains of the West, gray-and-black Clark’s Nutcrackers swoop among wizened pine trees, flashing white in the tail and wing. They use their dagger-like bills to rip into pine cones and pull out large seeds, which they stash in a pouch under their tongue and then carry away to bury for the winter. Each birds buries tens of thousands of seeds each summer and remembers the locations of most of them. Seeds they don’t retrieve play a crucial role in growing new pine forests.

More ID Info
image of range map for Clark's NutcrackerRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

Clark’s Nutcrackers are conspicuous birds in open subalpine forests near treeline in the West, where they fly with woodpecker-like swoops, perch on vertical pine branches, and jab at cones with their bills. They’re also wide-ranging and move through middle-elevation conifer forests, where they tend to stay near the canopy. A great way to find them is to listen for their long, grating calls, given frequently. If you see one pass by overhead, keep your eyes out because they typically travel in small groups. You may also see Clark’s Nutcrackers in campgrounds, picnic areas, trailheads, and high-elevation scenic pullouts in national parks and forests.

Other Names
  • Cascanueces Americano (Spanish)
  • Cassenoix d'Amérique (French)

Backyard Tips

Though they mostly eat fresh and stored pine seeds, Clark’s Nutcrackers do sometimes visit feeders at homes in the mountains. They tend to eat larger seeds, such as peanuts, and have been reported eating suet as well. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

  • Cool Facts