Clark's Nutcracker tending nestlings
Clark's Nutcrackers get an early start on nest-building and egg-laying. It's only April and here in Colorado there is still plenty of snow on the ground at the higher elevations where these birds are normally found. But these three nestlings are already well along - and hungry.
The Clark's Nutcracker is a member of the crow family - some of the smartest birds on planet Earth.
All Clark's Nutcrackers have a pouch beneath their tongues capable of holding more than a hundred pine seeds, their most important food source. They carry and hide these seeds in the ground in caches of 1 to 15 seeds for later retrieval and consumption. Studies have shown that a single Clark's Nutcracker can cache as many as 98,000 seeds in a season. They store more than they actually need as an insurance against scarcity of other food sources and seed theft by other animals such as squirrels.
The surplus seed can germinate and grow into new trees, if the conditions are right. Through this activity of caching and over-storing, Clark's Nutcrackers play a role in perpetuating their own food sources and habitat.
However, just because they store so many seeds doesn't mean the Clark's Nutcracker loses track of them. These amazing birds are able to remember the locations of seed caches with remarkable accuracy, months after they have stored the seeds, and even when the cache sites are buried under deep snow.