[Tweeters] "Purple-throated" Nutcrackers

Will's Email yekramw at gmail.com
Sat Sep 24 21:22:32 PDT 2016

That is kind of the point. No one has ever seen a Clark's eating berries, but that doesn't mean they don't. When one is observed with a purple neck, face or chin we should consider all possibilities to answer the observed facts. Trying to make a fairly dry seed stain the feathers of a bird when there are other sources of purple available seems to be reaching. As Jeff Gibson would say "just saying!"

The possibility exists that they expand their diet going into winter or when other food/energy sources are available. It appears that all observations of the staining occurred when the berries were ripe, as well as the seeds - so it is a possibility.

Sounds like a graduate extra credit project to me! Collect some berries, place them in open places that can be observed by Clark's and hunker down. See who stops by to partake of them. If I were only young again, had the time or needed the credits!

A much better project than one I did trying to find Sharp-tailed snakes (Contia tenuis) along the irrigation flume west of Ellensburg!

I once observed a Steller's Jay that was in a Dogwood tree plucking the breast of a small Passerine (this was before my interest in birds began, so I don't know the species). What attracted me was a group of small LBB's in the tree making a great racket. I went to look and there was the jay preparing his meal. Not a normal meal you would expect from a jay, but obviously the opportunity presented itself.

Will Markey
No longer east of Auburn on Soos Creek. Now back in Ellensburg

> On Sep 24, 2016, at 17:24, Guy <lguy_Mcw at yahoo.com> wrote:


> 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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