SPECIES

Kashmir Nutcracker Nucifraga multipunctata

Steve Madge, Andrew J. Spencer, and Guy M. Kirwan
Version: 1.1 — Published April 16, 2020

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

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Vocalizations

Poorly studied and little known. Apparently extremely similar in all respects to the voice of the closely related Eurasian Nutcracker (N. caryocatactes), and possibly not distinguishable considering the range of variation in that species. Bates and Lowther (11) described birds as "seeming to delight in ensconcing themselves [in dense coniferous foliage] while complaining to the world in general in anything but pleasing tones." Roberts (13), along with Bates and Lowther (11), gave the most complete published account of the vocal repertoire of this species; the information below is taken from those sources and experience from several different individuals at the western edge of the Kashmir Valley (AJS).

Development

Begging juveniles were described by Roberts (13) as uttering "an extraordinary series of squealing cries which reminded me of piglets." This is almost certainly the same call as described by Bates and Lowther (11) as "somewhat reminiscent of the squealings of little pigs, and a bird or birds will indulge in these squealings for many minutes at a time."

Vocal Array

Calls are rather variable, and whether these represent variation of a single call type, or many different calls is unknown. In Clark's Nutcracker (N. columbiana), 13 different vocalizations have been described, grouped into 3 types. Any attempt to similarly categorize the sounds of N. multipunctata would require far more study.

Kraa. By far the most common call is a loud, harsh and nasal kraa, lasting 0.1–0.3 s, and most often given doubled ( ) or tripled ( ), repeated in relatively quick succession. The note quality is hard to describe verbally, but is distinctive once learned. Described by Roberts (13) as a "harsh repeated krrr-a-ak-kr-r-a-ak-krra-ak usually repeated quite rapidly 6 or 7 times." Slower and faster variants of this call may be analogous to the Slow Location Call and Fast Location Call described for N. columbiana.

Reek. ( ) What may be a variation on the Kraa call, but seemingly given in a different context is a single rasping-grating note with a less nasal tone and harsher than the Kraa, lasting ~0.3 s, and given every 2 s. The sole recording was from a bird in response to playback, and was given at significantly lower volume than most other vocalizations of this species, and at close range. An encounter described by Roberts (13) as "a pair tape-recorded perching together in a silver fir (Abies alba), called to each other in softer but similar [to the Kraa call] ker-r-rk ker-r-r-k, less staccato in tone and more attenuated" may refer to this vocalization.

Reer. ( ) A short (0.2–0.3 s), slightly overslurred call, significantly more nasal than the Kraa or Reek with a slightly higher pitch. Sole known recording given from a bird foraging low and on the ground, is relatively quiet. Exact function of the Reer is uncertain.

Whisper song. ( ) While N. multipunctata, like most corvids, does not have a true song, a whisper song has been described and recorded. Roberts (13) described "a continuous soliloquy of varied sounds, including short cheop or chirp calls a bit like some calls of Alpine Chough [Pyrrhocorax graculus], alternated with bouts of the typical harsh kraak kraak cries and then some softer wheezing or twanging noises suggesting the coiled springs of an old upholstered seat being compressed and then suddenly released jhee-e-uph jhee-e-uph." The only available recording of whisper song seems to be a simpler version of this, a mixture of harsh rasps, higher-pitched than most calls of this species, mixed with clicking-gulping nasal notes. Whisper songs from N. caryocatactes exhibit significant variation, and the same can be expected of N. multipunctata.

Geographic Variation

None known.

Phenology

Little information. Bates and Lowther (11) say of juveniles "particularly in May and June these birds are at their noisiest." However, during 3 weeks in the Kashmir Valley in late June, AJS heard very few vocalizations from this species, and no begging calls. N. caryocatactes is typically most vocal early in the breeding season, so it could be that N. multipunctata is most vocal at a time of year when few observers are within their range.

Daily Pattern of Vocalizing

More study needed. In the Bangus Valley in northwestern Kashmir, most often heard early in the day (AJS).

Places of Vocalizing

Kraa call given from varying heights in tall coniferous trees, and in flight. Roberts (13) says of this call "carries a very long distance and is typically given from the top of a tall tree." Of birds recorded giving Kraa calls in June in Kashmir, one was perched only a few meters above the ground, another was perched about halfway up a tall tree, and a third was in the crown of another tall tree (AJS). Reek calls recorded from a bird perched a few meters off the ground, and Reer calls were recorded from a bird on and near the ground (AJS). Whisper song was heard and recorded from a bird moving through the subcanopy of tall trees (AJS).

Gender Differences

No published information. In other corvid species, the whisper song is apparently given solely by females, and in some species males also gender-specific vocalizations. It is not known if the same is true in N. multipunctata.

Repertoire and Delivery of Songs

No information.

Social Context and Presumed Functions of Vocalizations

No information.

Nonvocal Sounds

None known.

Recommended Citation

Madge, S., A. J. Spencer, and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Kashmir Nutcracker (Nucifraga multipunctata), version 1.1. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, S. M. Billerman, and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.sponut1.01.1