Post #57 of 100 Days of Blogging
A number of birds hoard, or cache if you prefer, food for later retrieval. When colder weather sets in, some use the strategy to help survive the winter. Others are more prone to this behavior in the breeding season. Here is a selection of 10 birds from the BPQ checklist that cache food for later use.
#1. Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Black-capped Chickadees are well known for their caching behavior and excellent memory that helps with retrieval.
#2. Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
Hoards seeds in fall and winter.
#3. Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
May store food throughout the year, but most prevalent in fall. They lodge food items deep (5–7 cm) in crevices to protect items from other animals.
#4. White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
During fall and winter, individuals regularly scatter hoard food. Although they hide food throughout their territory, they only use each storage site once.
#5. Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
Like other nuthatches, the Red-breasted Nuthatch regularly stores food during fall and winter. Check out this previous Bird Family of the Week post about nuthatches.
#6. Blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Blue jays cache their food in the autumn. It is estimated that each individual adult probably harvests and eats or caches several thousand acorns, beechnuts, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, or other hard mast over the course of the fall. They carry food in their throat and upper esophagus a.k.a. the gular pouch. The can more easily carry off the food items by storing 2-3 acorns in the pouch, another one in their beak, and one more in the tip of the bill. Quite a mouth full as you can see by the photo above! You can test your knowledge about the Blue jay and Canada’s other provincial birds in this previous post with the Official Canadian Bird Quiz .
#7. Gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
Gray jays store a variety of food stored throughout the year. They are scatter-hoarders and retrieve perishable items previously fastened in trees under bark scales and lichens. They use sticky saliva to make sure that their stash stays secure.
#8. Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)
Eastern Screech-Owls usually cache their prey in tree cavities but may also use various man-made structures, like the rafters inside abandoned buildings. Food is often stored on branches. If stored prey ends up frozen, these clever owls thaw it out through “incubation”. Conversely, they may use this same method to keep it from freezing in the first place!
#9. Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Cooper’s Hawks cache uneaten prey on horizontal branches and retrieve it for themselves and their young. Northern Goshawks, Red-shouldered Hawks and Northern Harriers also cache their food, mostly in breeding season to feed young or themselves.
#10. Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor)
Northern Shrikes use thorns and sharp objects like barbed wire fences, spiky thorns, or even v-shaped forked branches to impale and store their prey for later retrieval. As mentioned in a previous post, this has earned the bird the nickname of butcher bird.