Nutcracker, spotted nutcracker or walnut (lat. Nucifraga caryocatactes) is a passerine bird, slightly larger than the Eurasian jay. She has a much larger beak and a thinner head without a crest. Body plumage predominantly chocolate brown with distinct white spots and stripes. The wings and upper part of the tail are almost black with a greenish-blue sheen. This is one of the three types of nutcracker. The Kashmiri Nutcracker was formerly considered a subspecies of the Spotted Nutcracker. Another representative of the genus, Clark’s nutcracker, lives in the west of North America.
Why was the bird named Kedrovka
The spotted nutcracker is closely related to mountain coniferous forests. Its name comes from the highly specialized beak that allows the bird to crack nuts. The international name of the bird “Nucifraga caryocatacte” is translated as “nutcracker” and fully characterizes its way of obtaining food.
Description and appearance
The adult of the nominate race (here described and shown) has dark brown plumage with strong stripes and patches of white over most of the body. Crown and nape much darker brown. The sides of the head are more densely covered with white stripes, the cheeks are almost white. Eyes dark brown. Black legs and feet.
On the shoulder blades, chest and flanks, where they form merging lines, the white patches are larger and more scattered. The rump and upper tail coverts are dark brown, while the underbelly and undertail coverts are white.
The feathers on the upper wing are glossy black. There is a small white spot on the tips of the feathers. The tail is also glossy black, with white tips of straight feathers. These white tips are narrow on the central tail wings and become broader towards the tail feathers. This pattern appears almost white when viewed from below.
The beak is black, strong and rather long, straight and pointed. The inner side of the lower jaw shows a peculiar morphological criterion, with a ridge on the inner side of this jaw. This feature allows the bird to chew on hard seeds.
Juveniles are similar to adults, but have duller wings and tail, and the median coverts have a broad white edge. Stripes and spots brownish-white.
There are 8 subspecies divided into two groups. The first group, which includes races from the western and northern ranges, is strongly spotted and differs from each other in the shape of the beak. Races from the southern range have a slightly longer tail and lack the white tips of the central pair of restricts. They have much more brown plumage with less extensive white patches.
8 subspecies were identified:
The taxonomy of the species is controversial, some authors consider the spotted nutcracker to be a separate species, and some as the brown nutcracker (including subspecies from the Himalayas, China and Taiwan hemispila, macella and owstoni).
How many live
There is very little information on the life expectancy of representatives of the nutcracker genus. Among the nutcrackers there is information that Clark’s nutcracker lives up to 17 years. In natural habitat, the bird lives for more than 10 years. At the same time, the nutcracker is not kept as a pet.
Lifestyle and character
Usually a solitary bird, the non-migratory Nutcracker is territorial and will defend its food supply all year round. In autumn, the pair gather enough food to last through the winter; they carry cargo to their hiding place and bury seeds, nuts, and other edible foods. Months later, caches can be covered with several meters of snow, making them unrecognizable. Nutcracker is forced to tunnel deep into the snow to find stored food, with a success rate of over 75%.
The bird leads a sedentary lifestyle. With a shortage of coniferous seeds, Nutcrackers migrate west in search of food. Outside of the breeding season, these birds form flocks. Most often they can be seen in autumn in places of accumulation of hazel. The nutcracker has a hard, creaky voice. He can also sing in a low chirp.
Orekhovka is under the threat of extinction mainly due to natural factors. For example, they are very vulnerable to snowy winters and nest destruction. However, the hunting of these birds and the loss of habitat due to tourism can also have a significant impact on the nutcracker population.
Where do they live
Nuts are found in many parts of the world. We can highlight here, among others, their distribution in most of Europe. The nutcracker can be found in the northeast region, in places like the Scandinavian Peninsula, as well as in countries like Italy or Greece, and it can also be seen in Asia. in Eurasia, it is found in the central regions and in Siberia.
Nut is found in dense and extensive forests. She arranges her nests in spruce forests, spruce forests, usually in the fork of a branch. The nest is always camouflaged, invisible to humans. The nest has a characteristic structure, it is quite high and thick. The goal is protection from frost and bad weather. This is important, in particular, because in winter, nutcrackers often breed chicks. Walnut is widespread, especially in mountain and subalpine coniferous forests. She prefers pine forests, and in winter she can sometimes be found in deciduous. It nests on the upper border of tree-like vegetation, on steep slopes dotted with individual trees. The maximum percentage of nesting occurs at an altitude of about 1,700 meters above sea level.
What do they eat
Feeding mainly on seeds and nuts, the nutcracker gets its name from its unusual ability to break open hard shells. Seeds are picked out from the cones and split with the help of an unusual interlocking protrusion, which is located in the beak of the nutcracker; small nuts are cracked in the same way, but larger nuts are usually held in their claws or clamped in a stone or crevice and cracked.
Stored seeds and nuts will help the nutcracker survive the winter, and in summer and autumn, it supplements its diet with berries and insects.
Interesting fact! The spotted nutcrackers that invaded Britain in the 1960s ate everything from cakes to live rodents. This behavior of birds was caused by severe hunger.
This bird carefully camouflages where seeds are stored by covering them with bark, lichen, moss, or other natural camouflage. Stocks of buried seeds in the storerooms of the nutcracker are one of the most important means of spreading the coniferous forests of Eurasia.
Despite their solitary lifestyle, aggregations of up to 200 nutcrackers have been recorded early in the breeding season, although they usually consist of 10 birds. Territorial pairs usually allow such gatherings on their territory, although other birds are not allowed to feed.
Spotted Nutcrackers mate for life and take about 12 days each season to build a nest of twigs, lichen and thorns. The female lays up a masonry of 2-5 eggs, light blue with light brown specks. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 16-18 days; nutcracker is the only member of the corvidae family that shares this responsibility. The chicks are fed by their parents and leave the nest 23 days after hatching. They remain in the family group for three months after hatching.
The family breaks up in early July. Juveniles create their own territory and engage in foraging activities, storing nuts to help them overwinter.
natural enemies in nature
Despite the fact that this bird is small in size, it is very slow during takeoff. At this time, the walnut becomes vulnerable to predators. Most often, the nutcracker suffers from attacks while digging up reserves. The bird becomes less cautious and loses its vigilance, which can be used and get close to the prey by the fox, wolf and smaller predators: marten, sable, weasel. She is also in danger when she hides supplies. If the bird noticed that it is being watched at this time, it tries to disguise its prey.
The lynx is a danger in the trees, and some birds can damage nests by destroying young or attacking chicks. Birds of prey also prey on nutcrackers: hawks, owls, peregrine falcons and kites.
One of the enemies of the nutcracker is a man. There is no special hunting for it, although nutcracker meat is edible, but it has a specific, bitter taste. The greatest damage is caused by human activities during deforestation. The most terrible problem is forest fires, which flare up every year due to human fault. Every year in Western Siberia, the Irkutsk region, Buryatia and throughout Transbaikalia, many hectares of forest burn. Large tracts of cedar forests are burning, which are the main breeding and feeding grounds for the stone beetle. Fires destroy nests with young and chicks. Adult birds are deprived of food and supplies, dooming themselves to a hungry winter, which not every bird can survive in such conditions.
Interesting facts about the life of the nutcracker (nutcracker):