Northern Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 370,000-1,100,000 pairs, which equates to 739,000-2,200,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms 15% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 4,925,000-14,670,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. National population estimates include: c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs in China; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs in Korea; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs in Japan and c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline, e.g. owing to forest destruction in Taiwan (Madge and Burn 1993). In Europe, trends between 1980 and 2013 have been stable (EBCC 2015).

Distribution and population

Nucifraga caryocatactes is distributed from southern France through Europe east to the Urals and into Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia, Kamchatka, northern China, Korea and Japan.


This species occupies coniferous forest and mixed conifer and birch (Betula) forest where conifers predominate and is found from taiga lowlands up to 4,000 m in Nepal (Madge 2009). In continental Europe it mainly inhabits mountain forests, especially where forests broken by clearings and alpine meadows. Prime habitat in Europe is composed of Norway spruce (Picea abies) and Swiss pine (Pinus cembra); mixed forests of silver fir (Abies alba), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), black pine (Pinus nigra) and Macedonian pine (Pinus peuce) also important, especially if hazel (Corylus) also present (Madge 2009). Siberian populations favour cedars (Cedrus) and Siberian pine (Pinus sibirica). In the east of the range (from Kamchatka south to Japan) the species is linked with Japanese stone pine (Pinus pumila) and Sakhalin fir (Abies sachalinensis). In Tien Shan, the species shows a preference for Tien Shan spruce (Picea tianschanica). In the Himalayas it inhabits mixed rhododendron (Rhododendron) and conifer forests, with deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara), blue pine (Pinus excelsa), Pindrow fir (Abies pindrow), Himalayan fir (Abies spectabilis) and Morinda spruce (Picea smithiana) (Madge 2009). Breeding begins from March and clutches are usually three or four eggs (Madge and Burn 1993). The nest is a mass of twigs and branches, intertwined with bramble (Rubus) shoots and lichens, with a deep cup, lined with soft plant materials, including willow (Salix) seeds, mosses and lichens. It is normally placed around six metres from the ground close to main trunk of a conifer. Its primary food is pine nuts, particularly those of Siberian pine. It is a specialized nut-eater and has a prominent ridge inside base of lower mandible serving as ideal nut-cracking tool. During the spring and summer it also takes a wide variety of invertebrates, small rodents and small birds (Madge 2009). The species is generally resident however when hoarding hazelnuts in winter it may move to lower elevations in search of hazel thickets. The macrorhynchos race occassionally disperses very widely in search of food in years of pine seed shortages (Madge 2009).


There are currently no known significant threats to this species.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. There are currently no known specific conservation measures for this species within Europe.

Conservation Actions Proposed
No conservation measures are currently needed for this species within Europe.


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J. & Derhé, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Nucifraga caryocatactes. Downloaded from on 20/01/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/01/2022.