Saturday, January 31, 2009

I wonder if they dipped into their winter food stores this week…

There are several types of birds who stash food in the autumn, preparing for the harsh winter ahead. These birds have larger spatial memories than non-caching birds, which help them keep track of the position of objects in space. In our area, food-caching birds are White-breasted Nuthatches, Blue Jays, Tufted Titmice and chickadees.

In autumn nuthatches harvest and store hundreds of 
seeds throughout their territory using each hiding place 
only once. They hide seeds behind bark, in cracks and 
crevices of tree trunks, or in knotholes. Sometimes, they 
even cover the seeds with moss or lichens.

By spreading their food around, a behavior that’s called 
scatter-hoarding, food-caching birds help guarantee 
their survival by making it less likely their entire 
food stash will be raided by other birds. 

Blue Jays harvest several thousand acorns each fall 
and bury them in the ground. Any acorns the Blue Jays 
don’t eat sprout into saplings, so squirrels aren’t 
the only ones important to seed dispersal.

To read more about seed-caching birds, get Secret Lives of Common Birds, Enjoying Bird Behavior Through the Seasons, by Marie Read. This book has a lot of interesting bird behavior tid-bits and very beautiful photos.


Rob Ripma said...

Beautiful shots! Good luck with the Crossbills tomorrow.

Roy said...

I'm extremely jealous of that Nuthatch shot! I've been trying for years to catch one still enough for that kind of portrait. Larry has good reflexes, I guess. Great shots!

Kallen305 said...

Love the pictures of all the birds. I often wondered how many of my back yard friends stashed their food. It doesn't make sense to me because I always make sure my feeders are filled, but I guess that's in their instinct.

I do know the blue jays always take the peanuts I offer to them before the squirrels even get a chance to find them. They are hoarding them somewhere that's for certain.

Kelly said...

Thanks, Rob. If I see one, it will be a life bird for me! I know they are nomads. I just hope they stay around another day.
Roy...Larry has patience and phenomenal reflexes. I'm so thankful he sends me pics to post! blue jays go for the peanuts too. They were the first to use the peanut feeder.