AppearanceThe Spotted Nutcracker is a dark brown, broad-winged, short-tailed corvid. Body plumage is mid to dark chocolate brown, heavily spotted with white on face, neck, mantle and underparts. It has a large white loral spot, a white eye-ring, blackish brown cap extending onto the nape, dark blackish wings with a greenish-blue gloss, all white vent, and dark tail with white corners above and a white terminal band on the undertail. In flight, broad wings, white vent and short tail are noticeable; the flight undulating. The black bill is slender and rather long, sharply pointed, and varies in size amongst races. The iris, legs and feet are black.
Nutcrackers range from 32–38 cm in length and have a wingspan ranging from 49–53 cm.
The voice is similar to that of the Eurasian Jay and is loud and harsh. It is described as ''kraak-kraak-kraak-kraak''.
NamingThere are nine recognised subspecies
⤷ nominate ''caryocatactes'' Scandinavia to n and e Europe; Caucasus and n Kazakhstan; winters to s Russia;
⤷ ''macrorhynchos'' n and ne Asia; irruptions to n Iran, Korea and n China; vagrant Turkey
⤷ ''rothschildi'' Tian Shan and Dzungarian Alatau mountains, Kazakhstan and China;
⤷ ''japonica'' central and s Kuril Islands, Hokkaido, Honshū and Hondo, Japan;
⤷ ''owstoni'' Taiwan;
⤷ ''interdicta'' mountains of n China ;
⤷ ''hemispila'' Himalayas ;
⤷ ''macella'' e Himalayas to s Tibet, w Nepal, n Myanmar and sw China;
⤷ ''yunnanensis'' se China .
DistributionThe Spotted Nutcracker has an extensive range forming a broad swathe east-west from Scandinavia right across northern Europe, Siberia and to eastern Asia, including Japan, inhabiting the huge taiga conifer forests in the north.
Three further disjunct populations occur in mountain conifer forests further south, one centered on the mountains of central and southeast Europe ; another in the western Himalaya; and the third in western China seaboard and separated from the northern population by a relatively small gap in the north centre of China. See subspecies list above for race distributions. Some of the populations can be separated on bill size.
This species has a large range, extending over 10,000,000 km² globally. It also has a large global population, with an estimate of between 800,000-1,700,000 individuals in Europe.
Spotted Nutcrackers are not migratory, but will erupt out of range when a cone crop failure leaves them short of a food supply, the thin-billed eastern race ''macrorhynchos'' being the more likely to do this. Britain records about 8 vagrants per year, but in 1968 over 300 Nutcrackers visited Britain as part of a larger irruption into western Europe, probably due to a spell of early cold weather in Siberia.
ReproductionNutcracker couples stay together for life and their territory expands between 20 and 30 acres. Nesting is always early in this species across its whole range, so as to make the best use of pine nuts stored the previous autumn. The nest is usually built high in a conifer and usually on the sunny side. There are normally 2-4 eggs laid and incubated for 18 days. Both sexes feed the young which are usually fledged by about 23 days and stay with their parents for many months, following them to learn the food storage techniques essential for survival in their harsh environment.
FoodThe most important food resources for this species are the seeds of various Pines , principally the cold-climate species of white pine with large seeds: ''P. armandii, P. cembra, P. koraiensis, P. parviflora, P. peuce, P. pumila, P. sibirica'' and ''P. wallichiana'', and also the two lacebark pines in subgenus ''Ducampopinus, P. bungeana'' and ''P. gerardiana''. In some regions, where none of these pines occur, the seeds of Spruce and Hazel nuts form an important part of the diet too. The forms that take Hazel nuts have thicker bills for cracking their hard shells, with a special ridge on the inside of the bill edge near the base. If the shell is too hard, it holds the nut between its feet and hacks at it with its bill like a chisel.
Surplus seed is always stored for later use and it is this species that is responsible for the sowing of new trees of their favoured pines, including the re-establishment of the Swiss Pine over large areas in the Alps of central Europe formerly cleared by man.
Various insects are also taken, and also small birds, their eggs and nestlings, small rodents and carrion such as roadkills. It digs out bumble bee and wasp nests avidly to get at the grubs.
Some text fragments are auto parsed from Wikipedia.