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nutcracker

nutcracker, common name for a small crow of the genus Nucifraga in the family Corvidae (crow family). The Old World nutcracker ( N. caryocatactes ) is found throughout the colder regions of Europe, including high mountain forests. Its plumage is chocolate brown, speckled with white. With its strong, conical beak, it feeds omnivorously on a diet of conifer seeds, nuts, small buds, and insects. In a squirrellike fashion, it stores seeds during the summer and fall against the winter's snow, and has a remarkable ability to relocate its cache exactly, even though covered with snow. Clark's nutcracker ( N. columbians ), pale gray with black and white wings, is found throughout W North America, and is similar in its habits and choice of habitat to N. caryocatactes. It somewhat resembles a stout-billed mockingbird. Like most crows, nutcrackers are intelligent and aggressive birds. They are highly gregarious, and their flocks show a complex social organization. Their young are born blind and helpless. Nutcrackers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Corvidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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