The Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) is a gray robin sized bird with flashy black and white wings and tail. It is a member of the jay family. Seed from limber pine (Pinus flexilis) trees are its primary food source at Craters of the Moon. In August nutcrackers begin harvesting seeds. They work their sharply pointed beak between the cone scales to expose the pea sized pine seeds. Nutcrackers store up to 100 seeds under their tongue in a small sublingual pouch. Seeds remain there until the nutcracker can bury them, 3 to 5 seeds at a time, in dispersed caches, often many miles away from the original tree. A single bird may make up to 20,000 caches a year! Throughout the winter and spring, the nutcracker revisits these caches to eat the seeds and when feeding their young. These extensive food caches also allow the nutcrackers to nest feed their young in February; which in turn means the young are old enough to participate in the late summer seed harvest.
Did You Know?
In 1969 Apollo astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, Joe Engle and Eugene Cernan visited Craters of the Moon. They explored the lava landscape in order to learn the basics of volcanic geology in preparation for future trips to the moon. More...