The Big Cache

The Big Cache

Winter is upon us, and many birds have been preparing for a diminished food supply for some time now. Throughout the summer and fall, many birds, like jays and woodpeckers, have spent time foraging and gathering seed and nuts to store for the winter – this is called “caching”. If you saw birds take seed from your feeder, hull it and hide it under some tree bark, you probably witnessed a bird caching food for the winter.  acorn_woodpecker

Acorn Woodpeckers are excellent at caching food.  They are specialized feeders that live in large groups and gather acorns by the hundreds.  Acorn Woodpeckers will drill hundreds of holes in a tree or even a telephone pole and wedge acorns in these holes for later use.  They have been known to use the same tree or pole year after year as a larder.

Jays are also known to cache and Blue jays have been documented to store up to 4,000 acorns in one season.  But the Clark’s Nutcracker by far wins the prize for caching – clarks_nutcracker able to store between 22,000 and 33,000 pine nuts each season!  Their job is made easier because they can carry almost 100 pine nuts at one time in their throat pouch.  Hiding is one thing…but remembering where all these goodies are is another, and their ability to remember where they have stored their food is perhaps their most impressive feat.  While Blue jays retrieve about 30%  of their cache, those over-achiever Clark’s nutcrackers find a whopping 70% of hidden caches!

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