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Eurasian Nutcracker

From Opus

(Redirected from Spotted Nutcracker)

Alternative name: Spotted Nutcracker

Photo by pavlik Saratov region.Russia, November 2008
Photo by pavlik
Saratov region.Russia, November 2008
Nucifraga caryocatactes


[edit] Identification

Length 32 - 34 cm; weight 124 - 220 g. A distinctive, medium-sized corvid:

  • Dark brown plumage with white spots and streaks, most densely on side of head
  • Plain dark brown rump and uppertail-coverts
  • White undertail-coverts and lower belly
  • Glossy black upperwing
Subspecies owstoniPhoto by Dave 2xDasyueshan, Taiwan, March 2013
Subspecies owstoni
Photo by Dave 2x
Dasyueshan, Taiwan, March 2013
  • Glossy black tail with white feather tips
  • Dark brown eye
  • Black bill and legs

The subspecies differ in density and size of white spots and size of the bill.
Sexes similar, juveniles have dull brown wings and a broad white tip on the median coverts.

[edit] Distribution

The mountains of central and southeast Europe, locally in southern Scandinavia and European Russia, widely across northern Asia from the Ural Mountains east to the Pacific, and locally in eastern Asia, including Japan, Taiwan, central and southwestern China, and the Himalaya.
Locally common in suitable pine forest habitats.

[edit] Taxonomy

Large-spotted Nutcracker was formerly included in this species. Some authors in the past have split the southeastern group of subspecies (below) as a separate species N. hemispila, but this is not currently accepted.[2] These two species are in turn related to Clark's Nutcracker in western North America.

[edit] Subspecies

Eight subspecies are accepted in two groups[1][2]:

  • Northwestern (nominate) group; strongly spotted body:
  • Southeastern group; weakly spotted body:

Several additional subspecies have been proposed, but are not widely accepted. N. c. relicta (Alps) and N. c. wolfi (Balkans) are now considered synonyms of N. c. caryocatactes, while N. c. yunnanensis from south-western China is treated as a synonym of N. c. macella.[2]

[edit] Habitat

Taiga conifer forests and mixed conifer forest, usually with a significant white pine (Pinus subgenus Strobus) component. Occurs from lowlands in the north of its range, up to 2500 m in Europe, and to 4000 m in Nepal.

[edit] Behaviour

Usually seen in pairs or family parties and has little fear of humans, though very secretive during the nesting season.

[edit] Movements

All populations are usually resident, but in some years, cone crop failures can force big movements, with birds from Siberia (N. c. macrorhynchos) reaching as far west as Europe in certain winters. Most of these eruptive movements end in the death of the birds, but some return to their natal area, and some can establish new colonisations; a small population of N. c. macrorhynchos is now established at Punkaharju in Finland, colonising the forestry and ornamental plantations of Pinus sibirica and P. peuce there.[3]

[edit] Diet

They eat seeds from various species of white pines (notably Pinus cembra, P. peuce in Europe, P. armandii, P. pumila, P. sibirica, P. wallichiana in Asia). To a smaller extent they also eat spruce Picea seeds and hazel Corylus nuts; these latter are important in northern Europe where white pines do not occur naturally. Their diet also includes birds eggs,nestlings and insects including bee and wasp grubs.

Stores large quantities of nuts (up to 100,000 per bird) in its winter territory, using its exceptional spatial memory to retrieve the seeds up to 8-10 months later and even from under deep winter snow cover. Caches them often at the base of a tree, behind moss on rocks, crevices in a tree bark or simply on the ground near a rock or a small sapling. As they usually cache more than they need, the surplus seed is able to germinate; in consequence this bird plays a fundamental role in the dispersal of several white pine species.[3]

[edit] Breeding

The nest is usually built in dense foliage near the top of a conifer. They lay 2-5 eggs which are incubated for 18 days. Both adults feed the young which are usually fledged by about 23 days.

[edit] Vocalisation

Listen in an external program

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9., with updates to August 2014. Downloaded from
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507
  3. Lanner, R. M. (1996). Made for each other - a symbiosis of birds and pines. OUP.
  4. Avibase
  5. Wikipedia

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