Clark's Nutcrackers

Clark's  Nutcracker, US Fish & Wildlife photoClark's Nutcracker, US Fish & Wildlife photoClark's Nutcracker, Michael Sulis photo

Named after Corps of Discovery explorer William Clark, Clark's nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana) are found in the west from central Canada to northeast Mexico. While they feed on insects, berries, and occasional flesh from carcasses, their primary food consists of pine seeds, most notably those of the white pine and whitebark pine. Their powerful bills allow them to pull seeds from pine cones, and a single bird can cache as many as 98,000 seeds in a season for later consumption. Often these stored seeds grow new trees, resulting in renewed habitat for the pines.

The ability of Clark’s nutcrackers to perpetuate whitebark pine growth has been negatively affected across their range due to blister rust infections, pine beetle outbreaks and effects from long term fire exclusion. Studies are being undertaken to determine the possible effects to these birds if whitebark pine continues to decline.