Nature Notes

Volume IX No. 1 - July, 1936

Clark's Nutcrackers Banded For Study
By Chas. W. Quaintance, Ranger Naturalist

Although some eighty species of birds have been recorded in Crater Lake National Park, relatively little is known about how they live. This is the condition of zoology in general; however, in recent years students of zoology have studied animals in their natural state. The results of such studies may be of practical value, and too, they may serve to broaden our mental horizons, and provide a background for our knowledge of animal behavior.

Some of the facts of natural history to be ascertained by studying animals in their natural state may be listed. Mating activities vary, even in related species of animals. It is desirable to know something of the nesting habits, the time of year when the young are born, whether the parents mate for life, and other related information. It is of interest to know what animals eat throughout the year, and whether their food habits have any economic bearing. Other activities and facts to be learned are those concerned with their daily and seasonal movements, including migrations. Information on their voice, mannerisms, and the age that animals normally attain is of value.

One animal chosen for study in Crater Lake National Park is a bird, the most conspicuous one in the rim area, one which is associated in the minds of visitors with the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels. This bird, Nucifraga columbiana, called variously, Clark's Nutcracker, Clark's Crow, Clark's Jay, and though confused with the Gray Jay, "Camp Robber", is a member of the crow family. It is named after Captain William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame, who collected in Idaho the first specimens known to science. The bird is unmistakable in its sharply contrasting coat of gray, black and white.

In this study, observations were made at close range and at a distance, using field glasses. Catching the birds for banding was somewhat of a problem. After experimenting unsuccessfully with government sparrow traps and with figure four traps, it was found that a large hood made of one-inch mesh chicken wire would get the birds fairly easily. Peanuts were used for bait. The chief trouble was that of keeping the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels away until Nutcrackers got the bait.

Sixteen Nutcrackers were banded, each with an aluminum band of the United States Biological Survey and with three molded celluloid bands. The aluminum band is numbered so that the capture of any bird may ultimately be recorded in the Washington Office of the Biological Survey. The three celluloid bands on each of the sixteen birds were selected from a choice of four colors: pink, blue, yellow and red. With three, colored celluloid bands and one aluminum band to a bird, a large number of banding combinations were possible. The weight of the four bands is estimated to be to the bird what a wrist watch is to a man. These markers do not seem to interfere in any way with the progress of the birds. The fact that they came back to the banding station and the trap indicates that they have no unpleasant association with the experience of being banded. Often after being released (from banding) the birds attempted to peck off the ornaments; however, in a short while they became accustomed to the bands. They will wear the bands for years without any ill effects. The table on page 7 of this issue of Nature Notes gives the banding record of the sixteen Clark's Nutcrackers and one Oregon Jay banded in Crater Lake National Park during the summer of 1936.

Although the results from a study of this kind are not always immediate, at least one fact is already apparent. At the head of the Lake Trail, the birds which have been banded have been recorded from time to time at this same place, and still more come there which are unbanded. This enables one to say with certainty that although only about four birds appear at a time, a great many different individuals actually visit this place during a day.

Other information will come out of this study, and it will be especially interesting if during the winter, observations of the banded birds are reported to the park staff.

Clark's Nutcracker

Banding Record - Clark's Nutcracker
Biological Survey
Band No.
Date of Banding
Arrangement of Bands
Left Leg
Left Leg
Right Leg
Right Leg
C 301051July 24RRRX
C 301053July 24BBBX
C 301054July 24YYYX
C 301055July 24PPPX
C 301056July 24RPBX
C 301057July 24BY-X
C 301058July 25RRBX
C 301059July 25PPBX
C 301060July 25YYBX
C 301061July 25BBRX
C 301062July 30YYRX
C 301063July 30YYPX
C 301064July 27PPYX
C 301065July 30RBRX
C 301066August 3PBPX
C 301067August 3PRPX
C 301068August 3YRXY
R-red  B-blue  Y-yellow  X-Biological Survey
Banding Record - Oregon Jay
C 301052July 14Left Leg BRight Leg X
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