Nucifraga caryocatactes (Linnaeus, 1758) sec. Corvids of the World

Primary tabs

Nucifraga caryocatactes (Linnaeus, 1758) sec. Corvids of the World

Editorial Status

Currently not in focus of editorial work, unrevised text, last update: 2015-12-23.

Common Name

English: Nutcracker; Estonian: mänsak; German: Tannenhäher; Polish: Orzechówka, Orzechówka zwyczajna


Asia-Temperate China (China North-Central (Beijing nativeA, Hebei nativeA, Shanxi nativeA), China South-Central nativeA,B, China Southeast (Henan nativeA), Manchuria nativeA (Liaoning nativeA,1), Tibet (Tibet nativeB,2), Xinjiang (Xinjiang nativeA,3)); Eastern Asia (Japan nativeA, Korea nativeA, Taiwan (Taiwan nativeA)); Middle Asia (Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan nativeA,4), Kirgizistan (Kirgizistan nativeA,5)); Mongolia (Mongolia (Mongolia nativeA,6)); Russian Far East nativeA; Siberia nativeA; Western Asia (Afghanistan (Afghanistan nativeA,7)), Asia-Tropical Indian Subcontinent (East Himalaya nativeA,B, Nepal (Nepal nativeA,B,8), Pakistan (Pakistan nativeA,9), West Himalaya nativeA,B); Indo-China (Myanmar (Myanmar nativeA,10)), Europe Eastern Europe (Baltic States nativeA, Belarus (Belarus nativeA), Central European Russia (Central European Russia nativeA), East European Russia (East European Russia nativeA), North European Russia (North European Russia nativeA), Northwest European Russia nativeA, Ukraine (Ukraine nativeA)); Middle Europe nativeA; Northern Europe nativeA; Southeastern Europe nativeA
1. SW Liaoning, 2. S Tibet, 3. WC Xinjiang, 4. SE Kazakhstan, 5. C Kirgizistan, 6. N Mongolia, 7. E Afghanistan, 8. C Nepal, 9. W and N Pakistan, 10. N Myanmar


They feed largely on the seeds of the spruce (Picea morinda) and various species of pine (Pinus) found at these altitudes. The seeds are extracted, before the cones open naturally and scatter them on the ground. For this the Nutcracker has perfected a technique of his own. The stout, pointed bill is wedged in from below between the cracks opening of the mandibles, allowing the loos seed to escape and drop into the open gape of the bird. They also eat other seeds, fruits, nuts and insects. In the case of walnuts, it is probable that only those with very thin shells are tackled, or those partly cracked or gnawed by rodents.B

Biology And Ecology

The breeding season appears to be from about March to June.C


The nest is rather like the crow's - a platform of twigs - but more neatly built, and with sometimes a little lichen mixed on the outside. It is lined with grass and pine-needles. The site selected is usually in mixed forest on a steep hillside. The nest is placed in the horizontal branch of a deodar or some other large tree near the stem, between 20 and 50 feet from the ground.C


The normal clutch is of four eggs, pale bluish-white scattered all over the surface, but rather more densely at the broad end.C


It is usually seen singly or in widely separated pairs, but family parties of five or six are oacciasional.
The flight is straight and direct, achieved by rather deliberate flapping of the wings as in the crow, but with a curious "delayed action" effect between one flap and the next. When alarmed or suspicious, as for instance when their nest is approached, the birds become fussy and noisy, flying about from tree to three in the vicinity and uttering their harsh kraaks.
Both sexes evidently incubate.D


Philopterus crassipes (Burmeister, 1838)E Myrsidea brunnea (Nitzsch, 1866)F


Nutcrackers are very noisy birds and their native forests resound with their loud, guttural kraak, kraak, kraak etc., which immediately suggests their relationship with the crows. These calls are usually preceded by a nasal bleat a that of a young goat kid.B


A. 2003: The Howard and Moore complete checklist of the birds of the world. 3rd Edition: 504-515
B. Ali, S. 1949: Indian Hill Birds.: 9 [2945]
C. Ali, S. 1949: Indian Hill Birds.: 10 [2945]
D. Ali, S. 1949: Indian Hill Birds.: 9-10 [2945]
E. Price & Hellenthal: Taxonomy of Philopterus (Phthiraptera: Philopteridae) from the Corvidae (Passeriformes), with descriptions of nine new species. – Annals of the Entomological Society of America 91 (6): 782-799: 786, 796 [78]
F. Ansari, M.A.R. 1956: Studies on phthirapteran parasites (Mallophaga) infesting birds in the Panjab. – Indian journal of entomology 17: 394-400: 400 [8188]