Clark’s Nutcracker is one of the millions of mysteries that Nature has to throw at us. It is just a 5-ounce bird (and sometimes less) and if its brain is weighed, it turns out to be near zero. But, experts have found that this tiny bird has the incredible ability to memorize, on an average, 10,000 maps. The number of maps it memorizes ranges anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000. That’s one hell of a job and scientists are having real tough time figuring out how they manage to do so.
So, what’s all the fuss about Clark’s Nutcracker and Maps?
This tiny bird is known for collecting and hiding seeds since August every year till late November. By the time it is December, the bird embarks on finding those seeds and using them as food source.
In August, when it is high summer, whitebark pine trees produce the food for these little birds. These trees produce seeds that are neatly and tightly packed in their cones. That’s when the party time for these nutcrackers begin. They will shoot from tree to tree and look for the seeds. They will start harvesting the seeds by tearing open the cones using their very sharp beaks and pull out the seeds one by one. The birds will store the seeds in expandable pouchs that are present right under their tongues.
A few people conducted a study to figure out how fast the Clark’s Nutcracker can actually harvest. It turned out that they are pretty fast and end up collecting up to 32 seeds in a single minute. According to Russell Balda and Vander Wall, at one go, a Clark’s Nutcracker stores anywhere between 84 and 102 seeds in its pouch. According to Diana Tomback, a biologists, these birds store less seeds in their pouches in a single go, with an exception of one unusually large nutcracker she saw that carried 150 seeds.
So, what does the Clark’s Nutcracker do with these seeds?
Well, this bird caches them for the severe winter months when food supply is wiped out. Since August to November, the birds cache the seeds in different spots just like the squirrels and chipmunks do. Clark’s Nutcracker can hide the seeds it collects in a variety of places. They may tuck the seeds in nooks of tall trees or bore little holes on topsoil and bury the seeds. A single cache usually contains no more than two to three seeds. By end of November, a single nutcracker will have created anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000 caches of seeds. And, these caches are actually spread out in different locations.