Quick facts

(Nucifraga columbiana)
Found In high elevations in Western North America, including the Rocky Mountains of Canada.
Eats (Omnivorous) seeds, berries, eggs, dead animals
Winters Stays in the Rocky Mountains, year round
Related to Crows, magpies, ravens, jays

Clark’s nutcrackers are bold, extroverted birds found in the Rocky Mountains. Related to crows, these cheeky corvids play an important role in species at risk conservation.

An important partnership

Whitebark pine and Clark’s nutcrackers depend on each other for survival. Whitebark pine cones are unable to open on their own and spread their seeds. Clark’s nutcrackers are perfectly suited for this task.

Using their long pointed beaks, Clark’s nutcrackers break the cones open, removing the pea-sized seeds within. In the fall, Clark’s nutcrackers hide the high protein seeds beneath the soil to eat later. This ensures they have a reliable, nutritious food source throughout the winter.

Clark’s nutcrackers are expert whitebark pine gardeners. A single bird can hide thousands of seeds each fall. Approximately half of the hidden seeds are forgotten and may grow into whitebark pine trees if the conditions are right.

Creating openings for nutcrackers

High in the mountains of Banff National Park, Parks Canada staff are setting out on an important mission to remove competing tree species.

By removing trees that compete with whitebark pine new open spaces are created. This encourages the Clark’s nutcrackers natural seed hiding behaviour. They use these open spaces, close to whitebark pine trees, to hide seeds.

Openings in the forest are rare, partly due to historical fire suppression. Creating new openings where the crafty little gardeners can hide seeds helps create new whitebark pine habitat.