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.
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