Nutcracker - Encyclopedia




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NUTCRACKER, the name given by G. Edwards in 1758 (Gleanings, No. 240) to a bird which had hitherto borne no English appellation, though described in 1544 by Turner, who, meeting with it in the Rhaetic Alps, where it was called "Nousbrecher" (hodie " Nussbrecher"), translated that term into Latin as Nucifraga. In 5555 C. Gesner figured it and conferred upon it another designation, Caryocatactes. It is the Corvus caryocatactes of Linnaeus and the Nucifraga caryocatactes of modern ornithology. F. Willughby and J. Ray obtained it on the road from Vienna to Venice as they crossed what must have been the SOmmerring Pass, 26th September 5663. The first known to have occurred in Britain was, according to T. Pennant, shot at Mostyn in Flintshire, 5th October 1753, and about fifteen more examples have since been procured, and others seen, in the island. Contrary to what was for many years believed, the nest of the Nutcracker seems to be invariably built on the bough of a tree, some 20 ft. from the ground, and is a comparatively large structure of sticks, lined with grass. The eggs are of a very pale bluish-green, sometimes nearly spotless, but usually more or less freckled with pale olive or ash-colour. The chief food of the Nutcracker appears to be the seeds of various conifers, which it extracts as it holds the cones in its foot, and it has been questioned whether the bird has the faculty of cracking nuts - properly so called - with its bill, though that can be used with much force and, at least in confinement, with no little ingenuity. The old supposition that the Nutcrackers had any affinity to the Woodpeckers (Picidae) or were intermediate in position between them and the Crows (Corvidae) is now known to be wholly erroneous, for they undoubtedly belong to the latter family (see also CROW). (A. N.)

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