The Nutcracker is a bird, which is also called the Nutcracker, belongs to the passeriformes and to the large family of this order – the corvids. International scientific classification name — Nucifraga caryocatactes. It literally means “nut buster” or “nutcracker” — this is how the name of the bird is translated from Latin, Greek, German, English and other European languages.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Kedrovka

Photo: Kedrovka

Nutcrackers, along with 120 other species of birds from the corvid family, have common ancestors, the earliest remains of which were found in Germany and France. They were found as early as 17 million years BC. In its appearance, the nutcracker resembles a crow in outline, but is much smaller than this bird.

There is a division into nine different subspecies in appearance, type of food and habitat, but many ornithologists tend to generalize them into two groups: the northern species and southern. They are found in different regions of Eurasia.

Video: Kedrovka

In addition, there is also another variety that lives in the coniferous forests of North America — Nucifraga columbiana or Clark's Nutcracker. These birds are smaller than their Eurasian counterparts and have light gray, ashy plumage, and black wings and tail. They nest in mountain pine forests and have many features in common with other representatives of corvids – Podoces or desert jays.

Depending on the nature of the diet, birds are divided into nuts – those whose diet is dominated by hazelnuts and nutcrackers. Nuts have a more powerful, but short beak. In Siberia, there are individuals with a thinner and longer beak, adapted to eating pine nuts.

The main habitat in Europe consists of forest areas:

  • common spruce;
  • Swiss pine;
  • mixed fir forests;
  • Scotch pine;
  • Black pine;
  • Macedonian pine;
  • hazel (Corylus).

Siberian and Far Eastern inhabitants prefer:

  • cedar;
  • Siberian pine;
  • Japanese cedar;
  • Sakhalin fir.

Shan spruce. In the Himalayas, the habitual habitat is coniferous forests, deodar cedar, blue pine, pinvoy fir, Himalayan fir, Morinda spruce with rhododendron thickets.

Appearance and features

Photo: Nutcracker bird

Photo: Nutcracker bird

These representatives of the passerine order are slightly smaller than jackdaws, they can be compared in size with a jay. The length of the bird is from 30 to 40 cm, 10-12 cm falls on the tail. The wingspan is from 50 to 60 cm. The female can weigh 125 -190 g, and the males & # 8212; within 130 – 200 g. Females are not only smaller than the representatives of the opposite sex, but their color is slightly paler, and white spots are not so pronounced.

Kedrovka, which is found in most of Russia (N. caryocatactes) has a brown-chocolate plumage with white spots. There are no such spots on the crown and back of the head. The wing is black with a greenish sheen, some flight feathers have white tips.

The tail is also black. The two middle tail feathers are colored with a white narrow stripe at the end, the lateral stripe is wider. The undertail coverts are white. The legs and beak are gray-black, the eyes are brown-brown. The paws themselves are powerful with tenacious claws that help to hold the cones while peeling them.

The pockmarked plumage camouflages this bird well. Such coloring is necessary for not very fast nutcracker. She does not possess graceful flight and does not like to make long flights. To look around, birds choose bare branches or branches.

Interesting fact: A small bird boldly attacks a squirrel in order to take away a cedar cone or hazelnut from it.

Where does the nutcracker live?

Photo: Kedrovka in Russia

Photo: Kedrovka in Russia

There is no continuous habitat of the nutcracker in Eurasia, especially in the European part. It depends on the presence of forests that can provide the main food for these birds – nuts. Nutcracker can be found in many regions of the north of the mainland, where its habitat descends to the south of central Europe, in the Tien Shan region and in the east of the Japanese islands. They are found in the Scandinavian countries and the Alps in northern Italy, possibly in the Pyrenees.

The southern border runs along the Carpathians, rises to the south of Belarus, runs along the valley of the Kama River. In Asia, the southern border descends to the Altai Mountains, in Mongolia it runs along Khangai and Kentei, the Greater Khingan, in China – the Zhangguangcailing mountain range, rising to southern Primorye. In the north, the boundary everywhere coincides with the boundary of the forest and forest-tundra zones. Isolated habitats include the Tien Shan Mountains, the Dzungarian Alatau, Ketmen, the Kirghiz Range, the western spurs of the Talas massif, to the eastern slopes of the Altai Mountains.

In Kashmir, the subspecies of the Siberian nutcracker changes to N. multipunctata. This bird is larger and darker, but the light spots have a large outline. In the southeast of the Himalayas, another subspecies — N. hemispila, comparable in size to the Kashmiri individuals, but their main color is lighter, and the white spots are smaller. The range of this bird covers most of the Himalayan mountains, the east of Tibet and the southern regions of China, from the east of Afghanistan to the Korean Peninsula.

The nutcracker moves a little in space, loves settled way of life. Especially it is embarrassed by water spaces. In lean years, these birds are forced to make longer flights in search of food. Ornithologists believe that this is how the nutcrackers got to the Kuril and Japanese islands, Sakhalin.

An interesting fact: A massive flight of nutcrackers was observed in 1885 from the north-east of Russia (Arkhangelsk and Perm provinces) to the south-west of the south-east of the Ural Mountains. In the southwestern direction, the birds moved through Poland and Hungary, they migrated to Germany and Belgium, Holland, France, Southern England. Only a small part of the birds returned. The bulk died, some remained in new regions.

Now you know where the nutcracker lives. Let's see what she eats.

What does the nutcracker eat?

Photo: Kedrovka in winter

Photo: Nutcracker in winter

These birds prefer pine nuts in their diet, but in many areas dominated by broad-leaved forests, they eat hazelnuts, beech seeds and other plants. Other conifers may also be part of the food preferences of this forest dweller. Birds make a lot of preparations in autumn, collecting nuts in hiding places.

A powerful beak helps forest gourmets to extract kernels of nuts. The nutcracker opens it a little and strikes the shell. The blow falls on two points at once and splits the shell. Even walnuts were found in the caches of nutcrackers, a powerful beak is able to split their thicker shells.

An interesting fact: when transferring stocks, the nutcracker uses a sublingual bag in which it can place about a hundred pine nuts .

Stocks of birds are hidden in different places, they especially like to do this in crevices, on rocky slopes. Even in spring, thrifty birds continue to look for their pantries and feed their chicks with stocks. They remember well the places of such caches and easily find their pantries under the snow. A small bird, which barely reaches 200 grams, is able to prepare stocks for the winter of up to 60 kg, and sometimes up to 90 kg of pine nuts. And 10-13 nucleoli fit in her stomach.

An interesting fact: caches with stocks, not used by nutcrackers, make it possible for shoots of future mighty cedars to appear. This bird is the main distributor of both Siberian pine and Siberian pine, high in the mountains and far to the north. Seeds of these trees can be found in nutcrackers' pantries at a distance of up to four kilometers.

Even in the near-tundra zone and loaches, you can find seedlings of cedar, brought by the tireless nutcracker. Sprouts do not survive in such harsh conditions and die after a couple of years. But most of these stocks of birds are made at the edges of the forest, along the edge of the taiga thickets, which helps the emergence of new shoots of the mighty cedar.

The nutcracker menu also includes:

  • berries;
  • insects and their larvae;
  • land crustaceans;
  • eggs of other birds .

Nutcracker can safely attack small birds, and having won, first of all, it will peck out the brain of its prey. This feathered bird does not disdain carrion, it can feed on animals that have fallen into a trap or loop. If a tree is affected by insect larvae, then birds gather around it to profit. They can even use their beaks to extract insects that go underground to pupate.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Nutcracker bird

Photo: Nutcracker

The nature of the lifestyle of this forest bird differs at different times of the year. During nesting, she finds hidden corners in the thicket and rarely leaves this small area. If at this time a person accidentally comes close to this place, then the bird quickly hides, burying itself in the tops of trees.

At other times of the year, these birds are quite sociable, not at all afraid of people and can stay close to housing, knowing that there is always something to profit from. Most often, nutcrackers can be seen on the edges and clearings, along the edge of the forest, along forest rivers and streams.

Interesting fact: Nutcrackers, like other lies, are very inventive. Ornithologists have observed how they harvested pine moth caterpillars in November right from under the snow, making oblique passages in the snow cover.

Usually birds sit on the lower branches of trees, extracting seeds from cones. If they notice danger, they can take off almost silently and hide in the top of one of the nearby trees. Sometimes a bird can let a person get very close.

Nutcrackers make interesting sounds. They can be compared with the cry of a crow, but not so resounding, it is more like a cry of a jay. Their calls may sound like «cray-cray», if they are very worried, scared, then — «cr-cr-cr». Sometimes a set of sounds can even be called a semblance of singing.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Nutcracker in the forest

Photo: Nutcracker in the forest

Nutcrackers can be called social birds, except for nesting time. If you notice one bird, then there is always a chance to meet a few more nearby. Pairs are formed at the end of winter, and nesting sites are arranged even before the final snowmelt. The nest of this forest dweller can be found extremely rarely, only in the most remote thickets, if at this time a person meets with a nutcracker, she tends to slip away from him imperceptibly. Depending on climatic conditions, these birds, both female and male, build their nest from March to May.

This is a rather large structure, about 30 cm in diameter and up to 15 cm high. At the same time, the tray is rather small: about 10-15 cm in diameter. The nest is located high on spruce or other coniferous trees, in the place where the bough departs from the trunk. Dry boughs of conifers covered with lichen are laid at its base, the next layer is birch branches, the nest is lined with grass, fibers from under the bark, all this comes with a clay admixture, and on top it is covered with dry blades of grass, moss, fluff.

Birds lay from 3 to 7, but most often 5 eggs of bluish-white or fawn color. On the main background of the shell there are olive or smaller purple-gray mottles. Sometimes there are few inclusions and they are collected at the blunt end. Elongated eggs are about three centimeters long, two and a half centimeters across.

Both parents participate in incubation. Chicks appear after 19 days. First they are fed with insects and berries, nut kernels. After three weeks, the chicks already fly out of the nest and are able to independently obtain food. But even the smallest birds are no longer hiding, screaming to greet their parents who bring food, and adult birds, with desperate cries, rush at anyone who encroaches on offspring. After the chicks hatch, the old birds molt. When the kids get stronger, flocks of Nutcrackers move from remote places to more open ones. These birds reach sexual maturity by one or two years.

Natural enemies of nutcrackers

Photo: Nutcracker in nature

Photo: Nutcracker in nature

Although the forest bird is not large, it is heavy on takeoff and becomes defenseless when it digs out its strategic reserves, losing vigilance and caution. At this time, a fox, a wolf, smaller predators can sneak up on her: marten, sable, weasel. She is also in danger when she hides supplies. If the bird noticed that it was being watched at this time, then it tries to disguise its pantry.

On the trees, the danger is the lynx, and representatives of the weasel family, which can climb trunks perfectly, are able to destroy nests, destroying masonry or attacking chicks. Birds of prey also prey on nutcrackers: hawks, tawny owls, peregrine falcons, kites.

Interesting fact: If the clutch is ruined by predators, then nutcrackers can make a new nest and lay eggs again.


One of the enemies of nutcrackers is man. There is no special hunting for it, although the nutcracker meat is edible, but the taste is specific, bitter. The activity of people in deforestation brings more harm. But the most terrible misfortune is forest fires that flare up every year due to the fault of man, many hectares of forest annually burn out in Western Siberia, the Irkutsk region, Buryatia, and throughout Transbaikalia. It is there that there are large massifs of cedar, which is the main place of settlement and food base for nutcrackers. Nests with clutches and chicks perish in fires. Adult birds are deprived of food and their storerooms, which dooms them to a hungry winter, which not every bird will survive in such conditions.

Population and species status

Photo: Kedrovka in Russia

Photo: Kedrovka in Russia

These representatives of the lies inhabit coniferous and mixed coniferous-birch forests, with a predominance of conifers. Mountain forests with edges and alpine meadows are the main places where the European nutcracker settles. From the south of France, the range stretches to the Urals and Kazakhstan, is distributed over Mongolia and Siberia, reaches the Far East and captures Kamchatka, northern China, Korea and Japan.

The decrease in the number of nutcrackers is influenced by the technogenic situation, frequent forest fires, and an increase in agricultural areas due to forests. But the population of these birds is not endangered and, despite the downward trend, remains stable.

The habitat of the nutcracker is quite wide and does not approach the threshold of vulnerability. Percentage of population decline less than 30 in ten years or three generations. The number of nutcrackers around the world is estimated at 4.9 – 14.99 million individuals. Ornithologists believe that 370 thousand — 1.1 million pairs, which is 739 thousand – 2.2 million individuals, which is approximately 15% of the total number.

National breeding pair population estimates are:

  • China – 10,000-100,000 pairs;
  • Korea – 1 million pairs;
  • Japan – 100 – 10 thousand pairs;
  • Russia – 10 thousand – 100 thousand pairs.

The southern subspecies is being reduced due to the destruction of Taiwanese forests, while in European walnut in the time period 1980-2013 had a stable tendency to preserve livestock.

Kedrovka — a small forest bird plays a big role in distributing the seeds of various coniferous plants, from which new trees then appear. In addition, they destroy the pests of trees that have settled on them. Birds, earning their own food, drop cedar cones from tall trees in large numbers, thereby helping other animals to stock up for the winter. Even bears, wandering into such cedar forests, eat fallen cones, sending them into their mouths entirely. Nut or Nutcracker is a very interesting and useful bird, worthy of being taken care of and protected.

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