Museum Minute: Clark's Nutcracker

Jul 8, 2019

Clark's Nutcracker
Credit Draper Natural History Museum

The Clark’s Nutcracker is a high mountain bird located in the Western U.S. The bird is pretty unique for its ability to cache said Corey Anco, the assistant curator of the Draper Natural History Museum. 

“Caching means whatever it doesn’t consume when it grabs seeds from a pine cone, it will hide in another location and come back to it later,” said Anco. 

Anco said Clark’s Nutcracker have amazing memories and remember the locations of thousands of caches for more than nine months after they bury it. But the memory does start to fade after about nine months.

“One study reported that a single Clark's Nutcracker can cache upwards of 100,000 seeds in a single year, which is an incredible amount of seed dispersal,” said Anco.

The seed dispersal can help in forest regeneration. When the birds don’t dig up the seeds, those pine seeds go on to help re-establish pine forests. 

“Some species have adopted their pine cone structure to fit the beak of the Clark’s Nutcracker.” 

Anco said White Bark Pine is a mutualist and it requires the Clark’s Nutcracker for the seed dispersal of that tree.