Monday, July 8, 2013

Clark's Nutcracker

While climbing Mt. Baldy recently (10,064 feet in elevation), within a few hundred feet of the summit, I got a good close-up view of a Clark's Nutcracker, something I've never had before. 
Clark's Nutcracker
Clark's Nutcracker is usually found at relatively high altitudes in pine forests where they feed on pine seeds. It has a pouch underneath its tongue that can store up to 150 seeds. It then caches those seeds (up to 15 seeds per cache) in the ground for later consumption. They can store tens of thousands of seeds and have an amazing memory that allows them to go back and find the caches. Forgotten seeds often germinate and grow into pine trees, thus the Nutcracker perpetuates its own habitat. They have a very loud, distinctive call, a khraaaa-khraaaa (listen to it here), that I love to hear when I'm hiking. It really stands out in the silence of the upper mountains. They are all gray, except for a black bill, legs, feet, wings and central tail feathers, and white outer tail feathers and some white on the wings. I've wondered before why they are colored the way they are, because they are extremely conspicuous in the green pine trees where I usually see them.
Clark's Nutcracker in a pine tree.
But this Nutcracker I saw recently was on the ground part of the time, probably caching seeds, where it would be more vulnerable to predators, and it blended in very well. 
Clark's Nutcracker caching seeds.

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