Family Crows and Jays (Corvidae)

Least Concern

Northern Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes)


French: Cassenoix moucheté German: Tannenhäher Spanish: Cascanueces norteño
Other common names: Spotted Nutcracker, Eurasian Nutcracker

Corvus Caryocatactes


, 1758,

“Europa”= Sweden


Hitherto treated as conspecific with N. hemispila, and usually also with N. multipunctata. Nominate race intergrades with macrorhynchos in Urals. Several populations have been separated racially on basis of minor differences and are best treated as synonyms: in Europe, wolfi (Balkans) and relicta (Germany S to Serbia) included in nominate; in Asia, kamchatkensis (Kamchatka), altaicus (S Altai) and sassii (L Baikal region) in macrorhynchos. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. c. caryocatactes (Linnaeus, 1758) – Europe (S Fennoscandia S to SE France, N Italy, Bulgaria and N Greece, E to Ural Mts).
  • N. c. macrorhynchos C. L. Brehm, 1823 – from Urals E in Siberia to Anadyrland, Kamchatka and Sakhalin, S to the Altai, N Mongolia, NE China and Korea.
  • N. c. japonica E. J. O. Hartert, 1897 – S & C Kurils and N Japan (Hokkaido, Honshu and Kyushu).
  • N. c. rothschildi E. J. O. Hartert, 1903 – Tien Shan from SE Kazakhstan (Dzhungarskiy Alatau) S to C Kyrgyzstan (Talasskiy Alatau) and extreme NW China (W Xinjiang).
  • Descriptive notes

    32–35 cm; 124–220 g; wingspan 52–59 cm. A medium-sized, rather broad-winged and short-tailed corvid with distinctively spotted plumage (but looks dark at... read more


    Generally silent outside breeding season, but quite vocal from late winter onwards (breeds early).... read more


    Coniferous forest and mixed conifer and birch (Betula) forest where conifers predominate;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Main food throughout much of year and in much of range is pine nuts, especially those of Siberian pine; consumes also seeds of various... read more


    Breeding commences even when deep snow on ground; egg-laying begins third week of Mar in Sweden, even earlier in C Europe, where two... read more


    Most populations basically resident, but some, especially when hoarding hazelnuts for winter, move... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally common. Throughout its vast range a relatively conspicuous bird, but remoteness of its habitat gives false impression of... read more

    Recommended citation

    Madge, S., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Northern Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 27 February 2020).