The Clark’s Nutcracker is synonymous with the mountains of Lillooet. Nutcrackers are a member of the highly intelligent Jay and Crow family and is easily recognizable with strong grey, white and black plumage. Clark’s Nutcrackers have an equally unmistakable call – a loud, grating “Kraaaa” that can be heard across the valley.
Nutcrackers are omnivores and eat a variety of foods. But, as their namesake suggests, they have a strong preference for pine nuts, especially whitebark pine nuts.
Whitebark Pines produce oil-rich pine nuts. This creates a special relationship with the Clark’s Nutcracker and Grizzly Bear. Grizzlies also love pine nuts and fatten up on Whitebark pine nuts prior to going to den for the winter. Clark’s Nutcrackers eat the nuts year round; they collect them in the fall when they are ripe and bury them in ‘caches’, which they can then access throughout the rest of the year. Still, they forget some, and these may germinate and grow into new trees, feeding both them and the Grizzlies. Since both Grizzlies and Whitebarks are threatened species, the Clark’s Nutcracker has an important role to play in both their survivals.
Where it lives
To see Nutcrackers, you need to get up into the mountains around Lillooet. Although they occasionally come to mid-elevations, generally, they stay in the subalpine and higher (1500-2000m). If you stand on an alpine ridge, you can often look down the hill to the forest and see them soaring around the tree tops.
The Clark’s Nutcracker population is considered secure. There is some concern that Blister Rust and Pine Beetle may have an effect on their food supplies.
What you can do
Go for a hike and see these common birds in their natural habitat. The Lillooet Naturalists sell a hiking guide for the area, listing several trails to alpine where you will see these unique birds. Lillooet Brewery and several stores in Lillooet carry the Guide Book.
Become an Expert
To learn more, click here and go to the BC Breeding Bird Atlas.