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.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Birds looking to fill their winter cupboards

Because of this year's poor cone, nut, and seed crops, it is going to be a bad year for the birds as well as the squirrels and other little mammals that don't hibernate. I threw a scoop of Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess bird seed out for the squirrels this morning because it was so chilly. He took a nut, walked two feet away and buried it (actually just patted it in the grass a couple times) and grabbed another. Squirrels plan ahead and bury nuts and seeds at various locations and return to them throughout the year when food is scarce. Chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers, Blue Jays, and some other birds also plan ahead for those rainy and snowy days. They not only eat lunch at our feeders, they also take doggie bags away.

I watched the cutest Red-breasted Nuthatch grab a nut from the squirrel pile and secret it away in the crevices of the tree bark, right outside my window! He'll probably hide hundreds of seeds all over his winter territory, to retrieve later. It is a behavior known as "scatter-hoarding" and it is a bird's backup plan if food sources become scarce or the weather is too bad to forage.

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.
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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