Clarke's Nutcracker

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Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


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[Clarke's Nutcracker.]

[Clark's Nutcracker.]


No sooner had I examined perfect specimens of this somewhat singularly coloured bird, than I felt assured, more especially from the form of its bill, that it is with us a representative of the Nutcracker of Europe; and I was much surprised, on comparing it with the figure given of it by ALEXANDER WILSON, to find the latter very defective, the bill being nearly half an inch shorter than in four specimens which I have inspected. All that is known of its habits is contained in the following notes from Mr. NUTTALL and Mr. TOWNSEND.

"We first observed this species in a small pine grove, on the borders of Bear river, in the table-land of the Rocky Mountains, where they were probably breeding, in the month of July. We again saw a considerable flock of the young birds early in August, in a lofty ravine near the summit of one of the three belts or isolated mountains, about thirty or forty miles west of the Shoshonee river. They appeared somewhat shy, and scattered through a grove of aspens, flying with a slight chatter, scarcely a caw, from the tops of the bushes or trees, on to the ground, probably in quest of insect food. We never saw this species either on the lower plains or forests of the Columbia, or in any part of Upper California. It appears never to descend below the mountain plains." T. N.

"CLARKE'S Crow, Corvus columbianus. First found on Bear river, and afterwards on the Blue Mountains, plentiful. Its flight is very unlike that of the Common Crow, being performed by jerks, like that of the Woodpecker. When sitting, it is almost constantly screaming; its voice is very harsh and grating, and consists of one rather prolonged note. It breeds here in very high pine trees. The White Pelican also seen here in July, no doubt breeds; also the Canvass-backed Duck, the Shoveller, and Dusky Duck; found young of all of them. The Corvus columbianus is never seen within five hundred miles of the mouth of the Columbia. It appears generally to prefer a mountainous country and pine trees; and feeds chiefly on insects and their larvae." J. K. T.

CLARKE'S CROW, Corvus columbianus, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. iii. p. 29.
CORVUS COLUMBIANUS, Bonap. Syn., p. 57.
COLUMBIAN CROW, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 218.

CLARKE'S NUTCRACKER, Nucifraga columbiana, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iv.p. 459.

Male, 12, wing 7 11/12.

Rocky Mountains.

Adult Male.

Bill as long as the head, stout, somewhat conical, compressed, at the tip rather depressed. Upper mandible with its dorsal line slightly arcuato-declinate, the ridge convex, the sides rounded, the edges sharp and overlapping, without notae, the tip flattened and obtuse; lower mandible with the angle short and rounded, the dorsal line straight, the sides convex, the edges sharp and a little inflexed, the tip flattened, and rather obtuse. Nostrils basal, lateral, roundish, covered by bristly feathers, which are directed forwards.

Head large, broadly ovate; eyes of moderate size; neck rather short; body compact. Legs of moderate length, stout; tarsus compressed, with seven large anterior scutella and two plates behind, meeting so as form a sharp edge. Toes stout, with large scutella; the first toe very large, the inner a little shorter than the outer, the hind much longer; the third and fourth united as far as the second joint of the latter. Claws large, arched, much compressed, acute.

Plumage full, very soft and blended; the stiff bristly feathers over the nostrils extend about one-fifth of the length of the bill; and there are no distinct bristles at the base of the upper mandible; the feathers on the head are very short. The wings are long, and much rounded; the first quill two inches shorter than the second, which is ten-twelfths shorter than the third, the latter exceeded two-twelfths by the fourth, which is the longest; the outer primaries being narrow, give the wing, when closed, the appearance of being pointed. Tail of moderate length, rounded, of twelve rather broad feathers, of which the lateral is half an inch shorter than the middle.

Bill and feet brownish-black. Iris hazel. The general colour above and below is light brownish-grey, the forehead, throat, fore part of cheeks, and a space around the eye white, tinged with yellow. Wings black, glossed with blue; seven of the secondaries largely tipped with white, upper tail-coverts greyish-black; tail pure white, excepting the two middle feathers and the greater part of the inner webs of the next pair, which are black, glossed with blue; lower wing-coverts dusky, some tipped with white; lower tail-coverts pure white.

Length to end of tail 12 inches; bill along the ridge 1 8/12, along the edge of lower mandible 1 10/12; wing from flexure 7 11/12; tail 5 1/4; tarsus 1 4/12; hind toe (7 1/2)/12, its claw 8/12; middle toe 11/12, its claw 6/12.

The female is similar to the male.

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