This little bird has planted more trees than Johnny Appleseed
Related to jays and crows, the Clark's nutcracker is named after the explorer William Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition, who first recorded observing the interesting mountain bird in the year of 1805.
I've since learned much about the species. Like their cousin the gray jay, Clark's nutcrackers are notorious caching birds. They have extraordinary spatial memories that enable them to relocate in the wintertime most of the pine nuts and various seeds that they stored throughout the autumn months, even underneath several feet of snow. Up to 33,000 seeds are cached each fall by foraging Clark's nutcrackers.
The cones of several different pine trees, including pinyons, are pried and hammered open by the powerful and sharp bills of Clark's nutcrackers. This amazing activity also explained what the unusual hammer-like sound was that I heard one afternoon on another of my breaks. The sound was not like the usual woodpecker, though nearly as loud as from a pileated woodpecker.
Over the years in northwest Colorado, taking in the sights, sounds and scents of my mountain breaks while hunting deer and elk, I've watched various Clark's nutcrackers position a ripe pinecone between their feet and strike hard its outer surface so as to break apart the near impenetrable protective exterior. The sound reminded me of someone clucking their tongue against their palate, but much louder.
Another unique feature of the Clark's nutcracker is its lingual pouch (a pouch behind its tongue). This pouch enables the bird to store many seeds, up to 90 depending on seed size, which it collects while foraging.
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