Clark’s Nutcracker Nucifraga columbiana
Clark’s Nutcracker, sometimes called the Crow Woodpecker, will always be paired with Lewis’s Woodpecker, the woodpecker that acts like a crow, both because of their cross-family likenesses and because of their namesakes. Lewis and Clark explored large swaths of the Louisiana Purchase for the United States and I can think of no higher honor for their efforts than having two such becoming birds named for intrepid explorers. But the focus here is on the one bird, Nucifraga columbiana, and a charming and entertaining creature it is.
Prior to my making its acquaintance at Mount Rainier National Park I had never had the privilege of observing a Clark’s Nutcracker. The birds there must have felt that they had to make up for lost time. The first bird we saw when we parked at the Sunrise Visitor Center was a Clark’s Nutcracker exploring the parking lot, and the picnic areas were lousy with nutcrackers looking for picnic leavings. Desi, at 20 months old, represented a veritable smorgasbord for the crafty birds so during our entire lunch we had a couple of the nutcrackers in attendance, eagerly awaiting each and every dropped morsel. It was a wonderful experience and one that none of us will soon forget.
Clark’s Nutcrackers are a Species of Least Concern according to BirdLife International because of their large range and large and apparently increasing population. They are found across the higher mountain regions of the western United States and Canada, where they specialize on feeding on pine seeds which they extract from cones and cache.
All of the images here were taken in August of 2011 at Mount Rainier National Park’s Sunrise Visitor Center. If you look closely at the bird in the image above you will notice that it is banded. I am going to try to get a number off of the band and report it. If i am successful I will update this post with the information I find out about the bird. Until then, enjoy!
Finally, Clark’s Nutcrackers are also known to be quite the fashionable bird, often visiting haberdasheries when the opportunity presents itself. Here, one thinks about absconding with my ABA hat.
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