Family Crows and Jays (Corvidae)

Least Concern

Southern Nutcracker (Nucifraga hemispila)


French: Cassenoix de Chine German: Fichtenhäher Spanish: Cascanueces sureño

Nucifraga hemispila


, 1831,

Himalayas = Simla–Almora district


Hitherto treated as conspecific with (albeit forming its own group within) N. caryocatactes, but differs in its greatly reduced white spotting on back and underparts (2); much darker brown crown (2); lack of white tail tips but much greater length of white on outer rectrices (3); longer tail (effect size of nominate vs N. c. macrorhynchos 5.14, score 3); much slower rattle-call (0.032–0.042 [n=8] sec vs 0.017–0.023 sec [n=6], both involving recordings from across respective ranges) (3)#R. Usually treated as conspecific with N. multipunctata; intermediate individuals extremely rare. Nominate hemispila intergrades with macella in Darjeeling area of N India. Proposed race yunnanensis (Yunnan, in S China) included in macella. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. h. hemispila Vigors, 1831 – Himalayas from W Himachal Pradesh (Chambal) E, S of the Pir Panjal, to Nepal and N India (Darjeeling).
  • N. h. macella Thayer & Bangs, 1909 – E Himalayas from E Nepal and Sikkim E to NE India (Arunachal Pradesh), N Myanmar and S & C China (Qinling Mts of S Shaanxi and NW Hubei, S through Sichuan to SE Xizang and Yunnan).
  • N. h. interdicta O. Kleinschmidt & Weigold, 1922 – E China (SW Liaoning S to Shanxi, N Hebei and Henan).
  • N. h. owstoni C. Ingram, 1910 – Taiwan.
  • Descriptive notes

    c. 33 cm; 148–235 g; male 185–220 g, female 170–200 g (interdicta). A medium-sized, short-tailed, broad-winged corvid with large, heavy bill and spotted plumage (but... read more


    Calls include loud, harsh, slow rattle “kra-a-a-a”, often repeated, also a sightly faster version,... read more


    Coniferous forest, mixed forest with rhododendron (Rhododendron), also areas around... read more

    Food and feeding

    Main food is nuts and seeds, especially pine nuts but also seeds of various other conifer species, as well as other nuts, especially those... read more


    Season Feb–Jul in Himalayas (in W Himalayas late Feb appears to be main period); mainly Apr–May further E. Nest constructed of branches and... read more


    Resident. Some nomadic movements in response to variations in seed supply.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common throughout much of range in appropriate habitat. National population estimates include c.10,000–100,000 breeding pairs in... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Southern Nutcracker (Nucifraga hemispila). 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 16 November 2019).