110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Oct 6, 2013 - 7:27:03am
A Clark's nutcracker seemed to be watching the tourists as much as they were watching him at scenic Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon, a locale that my husband and I visited on our vacation in July. The famous lake was the main crowd-pleaser, but the wildlife always makes the outdoors more beautiful and exciting. I saw a lone bald eagle, one chipmunk, a sparrow, and two nutcrackers. How different life is in the mountains with snow, as compared to life on a lower range.
The Clark's nutcracker is 1 foot long, has a 2-foot wingspan, and weighs 4.6 ounces. This bird is predominantly gray with black wings, pale-gray face and back, and a chisellike bill. His alert black eyes give him a regal look, and he can hide in any shadows, easily camouflaging himself.
Clark's nutcrackers live in 3,000- to 12,000-foot mountainous, coniferous forests in the western U.S. and southwestern Canada.
These birds use a behavior called "caching," which means they often bury their food under rocks, logs or soil to eat in the near future or to give to their young. They can stash 30-150 seeds in a pouch under their tongue until they get to the food's hiding place. They frequently dig up their cache and rebury it. The seeds that they cannot find often produce new trees. What a win-win situation!
Another interesting behavior by Clark's nutcrackers is "bill-clicking," in which they test a seed for soundness by moving it up and down in their bill while quickly opening and closing the bill. When foraging on Colorado pinyon pines, these clever birds choose the best seeds by color, eating only the dark brown seeds! These busy, fussy birds know what is the best food to eat. Perhaps that's the reason they live up to 17 years!
In addition to seeds, their diet includes fruit, insects and sometimes squirrels, toads and carrion. However, pine seeds are their favorite.
In 1805, explorer Capt. William Clark named this bird after himself.
What a pleasure it was to see the Clark's nutcracker in its sunny Oregon habitat.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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