Best tree planter
in the South Chilcotin Mountians
|Clark's Nutcracker (Michael Sulis)|
Scientific name: Nucifraga columbiana
Family: Crows (Corvidae)Description: The Nutcracker is almost crow-sized (30-33 cm or 12-13 inches) and has a crow-like flight. It is light gray with dark eye and long, sharply pointed bill. Its black wings have patches at the trailing edge and the tail is black with white outer tail feathers. The belly is white as well the face from the forehead to the chin.
Voice: A guttural kraaaa...
Habitat: Stand of juniper and ponderosa pine, or whitebark and larch, on high mountains ranges, near the treeline.
Diet: Spiders insects, all kind of seeds, berries, eggs, and carrion. But 19 % of its annual diet are whitebark pine seeds.
Nesting: The bird nests very early in the year by laying 2-6 green eggs in a deep bowl nest of sticks in a coniferous tree.
Range: Clark's Nutcrackers are native all along the Rocky Mountains - from North Mexico to South British Columbia, Canada. Because of the extreme large range and of its increasing population the bird is not protected under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Special Note: Clark's Nutcracker are adept at prying seeds from the whitebark cones. It carries up to 150 of the nutritious nut in a throat pouch. The capacity is more likely 50-70 though. Then the bird spreads out to do the "planting".
A nutcracker usually flies a few hundred meters before caching seeds two inches into the soil. The record of distance is 22 kilometers. The birds often seek open, sunlit meadows like recently burned areas or places where strong winter winds will sweep away the snow. A single Clark's Nutcracker may deposit approximately 33,000 seeds per season - some may even store up to 98,000. The birds are able to remember the site of the cache and the size of seed storage (clusters of 1-15) over 9 month. About half the seeds are then recovered as food in times of scarcity and to feed their young.
The rest have the opportunity to sprout as seedlings and contribute to forest generation. The whitebark pine tree is especially reliant on Nutcrackers. These days, the climate at high elevations has been warm enough for mountain pine beetles to reproduce within whitebark pine and to endanger this tree species. Thanks to the little tree planter by keeping mother nature a little more steady.