Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the the August 16, 2009 Newsletter, reporting on a visit to Crater Lake National Park in southwestern  Oregon:

On my recent hiking trip in California's Red Buttes Wilderness Area we failed to see Clark's Nutcrackers, NUCIFRAGA COLUMBIANA, maybe because we never got high enough. At the chilly picnic ground on Crater Lake's rim at 7,100 feet nutcrackers were all over the place snatching food from picnickers. At a nearby table one fellow was so annoyed with them that he kicked one away with his foot. That's one near our table above..

I felt sorry seeing a nutcracker being treated so roughly, for they are special birds to me. On my webpage called "Birds with Fantastic Memories" at http://www.backyardnature.net/birdmmry.htm I write:

"In late summer, Clark's Nutcrackers harvest seeds of Pinyon Pines. They stuff the seeds into pouches below their tongues, and then may fly several miles and bury the seeds. A single nutcracker may bury as many as 33,000 Pinyon Pine seeds in groups, or caches (pronounced CASH-es), of four of five seeds each. When winter comes and food is scarce, the bird returns to its thousands of caches and eats its seeds."

Studies have shown that Clark's Nutcrackers remember far more than the general vicinity in which they've buried their caches. Very often they remember the caches' exact locations. For that specific task of remembering where their caches are located, the brains of Clark's Nutcrackers appear to be more highly developed than that of an average human.

It's not surprising that nutcrackers are so smart. They belong in the same family as jays, magpies, crows and ravens, who also are famously intelligent birds.

Clark's Nutcracker's are permanent residents who wander widely into lower elevations during the winter. You can see their summer distribution map is at http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/htm96/map617/ra4910.html.