[Tweeters] "Purple-throated" Nutcrackers

Guy lguy_Mcw at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 24 17:24:59 PDT 2016

From Teresa Lorenz, a couple of years ago, when I also spotted some Nutcrackers with purple faces ...
"Red anthocyanins (pigments) in unripe whitebark pine
cones stain the face and breast feathers of nutcrackers foraging on unripe
cones. "

Guy McWethy
Renton, WA
Lguy_mcw at yahoo

On Sep 24, 2016, at 11:07 AM, Gudalewicz Dasha <dasha at gudalewicz.com> wrote:

> Hello Tweets,


> Two weeks ago at Sunrise, Mount Rainier, I saw and photographed a nutcracker with throat stained pinkish/purplish. That reminded me that three years ago, in July, 2013, I saw two birds with similar stains, also at Sunrise.


> First six images here:

> https://ololaiki.smugmug.com/Animals/Birds/Corvids/Clarks-Nutcracker-2/


> That made me curious. But I couldn’t find anywhere what causes such staining.


> And the only other photos I found online were made in Banff NP:

> https://leerentz.wordpress.com/2010/10/30/banff-national-park-friendly-relations-between-clarks-nutcracker-and-whitebark-pine/


> I asked Dennis Paulson if he ever saw something like that and he did! At Sunrise in October 1974 he photographed what he called “Purple-throated Fruitcrow” :)


> Dennis and I think that the most reasonable theory is that immature Whitebark Pine cones produce some kind of purplish stain.


> From Clark’s Nutcracker profile on BNA Online:

> “Beginning mid- to late Jul, harvests unripe pine seeds ( Tomback 1978a , Hutchins and Lanner 1982 , Christensen et al. 1991 ). Removes seeds from closed whitebark, piñon, limber, Jeffrey, and ponderosa pine cones…”


> But at the same time:

> “Whitebark pine seeds stored as early as 15 Aug in Rocky Mtns. and 25 Aug in Sierra Nevada.”


> Does anybody know when nutcrackers start collecting Whitebark seeds at Rainier? (as my first sighting was in July)

> Have any of you encountered (and probably photographed) stained nutcrackers?

> Or have you handled unripe Whitebark cones and can confirm that they stain?

> If you’re planning on hiking Rainier (or any other place where Whitebark Pines grow) would you be willing to collect a cone (if it is in the hand’s reach!) and check if it stains?


> Thank you!

> And happy birding,


> Dasha Gudalewicz,

> Sammamish, WA

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