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Clark's Nutcracker


Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Michael Woodruff

Named after William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Clark's nutcracker is a fearless corvid that is just as curious as the explorer for which it is named.

Common Name:

Clark's Nutcracker

Scientific Name:

Nucifraga columbiana


  • Bill: Long, thick, pointed, black
  • Size: 12.5 inches long with 18-inch wingspan, short tail
  • Colors: White, gray, black
  • Markings: Genders are the same with overall gray plumage and a plain, whitish face that contrasts with black eyes. The black wings have a bold white patch on the secondary feathers, and the white tail has black central feathers and white undertail coverts. Legs and feet are black.


Pine seeds, nuts, insects, lizards, bird eggs, small mammals, carrion, berries

Habitat and Migration:

The Clark's nutcracker is found year-round in coniferous forests of the western Rocky Mountain region between 3,000 and 13,000 feet elevation. The bird's range extends from British Columbia south to northern Arizona and New Mexico as well as into mountainous areas of eastern California and Nevada. Recorded irruptions of Clark's nutcrackers occur infrequently, averaging once every 10-20 years.


These are noisy, gregarious birds that have a raspy, grating "kraaaak" call that may be insistently repeated 4-5 times in rapid succession. The pitch can vary but is typically constant throughout one call.


The Clark's nutcracker is an active forager that may walk or hop along the ground for insects or fallen seeds, or it will pry pine seeds out from cones in trees. The bird's large throat pouch can store 90-100 seeds at a time, and these birds will cache seeds and nuts in thousands of locations that they will later return to when food is scarce. Fearless and opportunistic, Clark's nutcrackers will chase large mammals away from their territory and will eagerly investigate campsites begging for handouts.


These are monogamous birds but often nest in colonies. Both parents will incubate the brood of 2-6 eggs for 16-18 days, and after hatching both parents will feed the altricial young for an additional 19-21 days. A mated pair will raise one brood per year.

Attracting Clark's Nutcrackers:

These curious birds will readily visit backyards in their range where suet, kitchen scraps and nuts are offered. Coniferous trees are essential to provide shelter and foraging opportunities as well.

Similar Birds:

  • Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
  • Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)
  • Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi)

Photo – Clark's Nutcracker © Michael Woodruff

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