Food Caching

Jays and nuthatches are two birds which will take food and store it away for a “rainy day”. This is known as caching and is a way for the birds to set up an insurance plan for when food sources are harder to come by during the winter months.

Jays have an¬†distensible esophagus which allows them to carry a huge amount of food away from the bird feeder to hide away in the undergrowth and trees. I’ve personally counted one take 23 peanuts in one visit.

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Researchers believe that jays can bury up to 5000 items of food a year and have a 70% retrieval record. In the case of the acorns they collect and bury the ones they fail to retrieve are responsible for the spread of oak trees! I wonder if somewhere in the woods wild peanut plants are growing?

Nuthatches tend to be single item cachers and will wedge items of food into crevices in trees or into the bark for later. Both birds are also known to rob the caches of others by watching where the food is hidden and then moving in to steal it.

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The food caches will be spread out within the birds home range so they don’t put all their eggs in one basket and to also increase the chances of not being robbed. If they think they have been watched whilst caching food they may move it and re-hide it again to protect their stash.

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So the next time your watching a jay stuff its face with peanuts it’s not just being a greedy bird it’s actually planning ahead.

It’s Time to Find a Nest

For the last three years I’ve watched a nuthatch preparing its nest in the same hole in a tree in my local park. And it’s back again this year getting it ready to welcome the next generation. Apparently nuthatches never go far from the area they were born in so they may be the same parent or one of its offspring from a previous year.

They use mud to reduce the size of the hole to protect the eggs and young from predators such as magpies or woodpeckers.

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This wasn’t the only one I saw at the weekend enjoying the sunshine and the start of Spring.

Down in the wood I watched a pair flitting from one potential nest site to another like a pair of newly weds selecting a home. There were three possible sites they flew in and out of in close proximity to each other so it’ll be interesting to see which one becomes home. They then proceeded to mate as if to seal the deal!

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A Nuthatch Spring Clean

Spent a brilliant hour watching this little chap(ess) clearing out the nest site ready for spring.

The nuthatch is a plump bird about the size of a great tit that resembles a small woodpecker. It is blue-grey above and whitish below, with chestnut on its sides and under its tail. It has a black stripe on its head, a long black pointed bill, and short legs. It breeds in central and southern England and in Wales, and is resident, with birds seldom travelling far from the woods where they hatch. They get their name from the habit of wedging a piece of food in a crevice and hacking away till it breaks. The Nuthatch will either use a hole in a tree or wall, or take over an abandoned nest. The hole may be reduced in size by plastering it with mud. The nest is made from bark chips and dead leaves. I think this one was at the plastering stage. Going to be keeping my eye on this site, I’m guessing the little ones will be fun when they fledge.

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