About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Birds plan ahead for rainy days

Chickadees, nuthatches, some woodpeckers, jays, and crows all plan ahead for those rainy and snowy days. These birds not only eat lunch at our feeders, they also take doggie bags away.

Extra seeds and nuts will be secreted away in the crevices of tree bark, in knotholes, or in the ground for them to retrieve and eat at a later time. They hide hundreds of seeds all over their territory, in a behavior known as scatter-hoarding to help them survive if food sources become scarce.

Each seed is placed in a different location and neurobiologists have discovered that the part of the bird brain that processes spatial information increases in fall to help them remember where they hid each yummy morsel and shrinks in the spring.

Not only can they accurately remember the location of each seed they hoard a month later, they also remember the quality of items they initially stored, making more of an effort to retrieve the best food.

Recent research has shown that a consistent and reliable source of food helps birds to
build body fat reserves, reduces their physiological stress and helps to maintain a healthy body condition. By providing easily accessible, quality food, you can help your birds with their caching needs in the fall so they will stick around your yard all winter. Below is a little more detail on some of your favorite birds' caching behaviors.
  • Cache seeds (in the shell and out), nuts, insects and other invertebrate prey
  • Food is typically cached about 100 feet from feeders
  • May carry off several seeds at a time, but each item is stored in a separate location
  • Store food in knotholes, bark, under shingles, in the ground and on the underside of small branches
  • Prefer to cache hulled sunflower seeds, because they are easier and faster to cache; occasionally mealworms
  • Food is typically cached about 45 feet from feeders
  • Store food in bark crevices on large tree trunks and on the underside of branches
  • Cache sunflower, peanuts and safflower one seed at a time
  • Food is typically cached about 130 feet from feeders
  • 80% of the time seeds are removed from their shell before hidden in tree trunks
  • Cache acorns, peanuts in the shell, and sunflower seeds
  • They can carry several nuts at one time in their esophagus.
  • A single blue jay can cache or hide as many as 5,000 acorns up to 2.5 miles from their original source and retrieve them when needed.
  • Jays cache nuts by burying them singly in the ground in their territory.
Related articles:
- Birds Move Trees http://bit.ly/oPqFgG
- Screech Owls cache uneaten prey items in cavities http://bit.ly/pJ7jCP
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker stores its food in the barks of trees http://bit.ly/nqYS7j
- Mine! All Mine: Why Squirrels Hoard http://bit.ly/qFANnl
- Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/qq5xu1
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/ngkPX3

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