Montana Outdoors

November 28, 2010

Clark’s Nutcracker

Filed under: Birds, Winter — Tags: , , — montucky @ 10:04 pm

This gray, white and black relative of the Jay is a very interesting bird. It is found only west of the Dakotas and usually at the higher elevations, (over 6,000 feet) where it feeds on pine seeds, especially those of the whitebark pine. It has a larger than normal hippocampus – the part of the brain that deals with spatial memory – and is capable of storing up to 30,000 seeds in over 2,500 locations that it spreads over its seasonal range from tree line where it lives in summer to the lower forest regions where it can be found in winter. I’ve seen it stated that where some birds will plant trees as a result of their seed caches, one of these over its lifetime can plant a whole forest. A Google search will yield a wealth of information on Nucifraga columbiana.

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker



  1. He’s a handsome fellow, you got some great shots. That last one, in particular, would make a nice holiday greeting card. Were these taken with your 300mm? Really nice.


    Comment by Candace — November 28, 2010 @ 10:45 pm

    • Yes, the 70-300mm. For some reason I chose to take it on a walk today and encountered some Nutcrackers. They were shaking snow down on me and I didn’t know how much was on the lens, but some of the photos came out OK. It seems very unusual, but for the last month I’ve seen quite a few of these Nutcrackers at low elevations.


      Comment by montucky — November 28, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

  2. Sherlock Holmes would love this fellow. I like the last shot best.


    Comment by burstmode — November 29, 2010 @ 5:13 am

  3. What a cutie! You’ve got some tack sharp photos of this guy. Way to go! 🙂


    Comment by Robin — November 29, 2010 @ 7:25 am

  4. What a neat and lovely bird! I really like jays and haven’t seen this species before. These photos are so sharp, and I just love the bird within the pine and snow. Even with a super zoom, you still had to be relatively close and steady with the camera and lens. Nature certainly agrees with you. Excellent shots!


    Comment by Anna — November 29, 2010 @ 9:02 am

    • Getting that close was a stroke of luck and the light conditions were so bad I didn’t think I had anything decent until I uploaded them to the computer. It’s always worth while to try! These were shot at 1/125 sec because of the light: I would have preferred much faster.


      Comment by montucky — November 29, 2010 @ 9:43 am

  5. A very handsome and industrious fellow the Clark’s Nutcracker. The name is very appropriate, too.


    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — November 29, 2010 @ 9:54 am

    • If I were to be a bird, this would be the one I would prefer to be for many reasons.


      Comment by montucky — November 29, 2010 @ 10:26 am

  6. Wonderful shots and thank you for the information on this bird..


    Comment by Roberta Gould — November 29, 2010 @ 11:07 am

    • I think they are quite pretty, and since they are Jay size they are easy to spot if they’re around. They also have a fairly loud and not very pleasant voice.


      Comment by montucky — November 29, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

  7. I have heard of them, but of course never seen one, being only 11 feet above sea level.

    What a good job of photographing him, too,

    Our blue jays must have a much smaller brain. They plant seeds in the damnedest places.


    Comment by sandy — November 29, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

    • You would love seeing these guys fly when they are near a mountain top. I’ve seen them soar and drop a thousand feet in just seconds. I know they have to enjoy that: maybe it’s their version of skiing!


      Comment by montucky — November 29, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

  8. What a very pretty bird! Lovely photos too.


    Comment by Val Erde — November 29, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

    • They are nice to see and fun to watch: very active.


      Comment by montucky — November 29, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

  9. One of my favorites as well, always fun to find one at the top of a hike to entertain while the humans sit around recovering.


    Comment by Daveabirding — November 29, 2010 @ 4:54 pm

  10. Nice shots Terry;
    Are these the same birds we usually call camp robbers? They show up about hunting season every year..


    Comment by Rich — November 29, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

    • I’ve hear of them being called camp robbers, but the one we usually call that is the Gray Jay which has a much larger range, going clear across Canada to the east coast. Clark’s range is just west of the Dakotas. They are closely related


      Comment by montucky — November 29, 2010 @ 9:30 pm

  11. Hi Montucky, What a lovely bird! You have captured wonderful pictures of it. Have a super good evening tonight and a fabulous Tuesday tomorrow!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — November 29, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

    • You would enjoy these, wildlifewatcher. They are very entertaining.


      Comment by montucky — November 29, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

  12. gorgeous, smart and good for the environment too!!


    Comment by silken — November 29, 2010 @ 9:59 pm

    • Exactly, Stacey! Pretty good for a bird. Now if the rest of us could just do as well!


      Comment by montucky — November 29, 2010 @ 10:57 pm

  13. Great close-ups. It’s odd looking at all this snow while we’re having a Georgia thunderstorm.



    Comment by knightofswords — November 30, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

    • Well, next week we are supposed to have a slight chance of rain. I hope that doesn’t happen though! A thunderstorm in Georgia sounds good, but a rain here this time of year doesn’t.


      Comment by montucky — November 30, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

  14. Gracious those are beautiful photographs. I’ve never seen one before so especially nice to see your beautiful captures!


    Comment by kcjewel — November 30, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

    • Thanks Jewel! I’m not much of a bird photographer, but every once in awhile some will let me get close enough to them to get a few shots. This is one of my favorite birds, too.


      Comment by montucky — November 30, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

  15. He is a beautiful bird and sounds like he is very entertaining to watch, too. You got some great photos!


    Comment by kateri — November 30, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

    • These were very interested in the pine seeds, but they are always entertaining. They are big, bold and active; best if viewed from a tall cliff in the high country.


      Comment by montucky — November 30, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

  16. Terry! Fabulous captures… what a gorgeous bird and HEY the snow is back on your blog! I’ve got to go get it for mine!!!


    Comment by Stacey Dawn — November 30, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

    • The falling snow is courtesy of WordPress: they do that every December and I enjoy it!


      Comment by montucky — December 1, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

  17. Lovely images of this noisy bird! First saw them in high elevations outside of Red Lodge a few years back and couldn’t identify with certainty until after reading about them… we heard them first… HIGH in trees near the trail we were hiking and the noise they were making was due to cracking nuts (as we later discovered). Your photos could easily be used as holiday card images… just a marvelous series! (love the falling snow background)


    Comment by Victoria — December 1, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

    • Thanks Tory! When I first ran into these birds several years ago I thought they were Canada Jays (Gray Jays), AKA “Camp Robbers”, but they didn’t act quite the same and so I did more research on them. Pretty interesting fellows!


      Comment by montucky — December 1, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

  18. How lovely series of photos! The first photo could be to put to some bird’s life book!

    I have to confess that I have not seen it here, never. Your nature is full of beautiful surprises. Happlily I have now possibility to admire them thru Your beautiful photos.


    Comment by sartenada — December 2, 2010 @ 11:42 pm

    • I don’t know if this bird is found in your area. Here it lives only in the very western states and at high elevations. It may be a species that has adapted to s particular diet that is found only in these places.


      Comment by montucky — December 2, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

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