Recovery of cached food by captive blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata)

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Virginia Tech

Corvids are important seed and nut dispersers in North America. To date, the caching and recovery behaviors of four North American Corvids have been documented, n10st notably Clark1s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana). Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) are important dispersers of Quercus, Fagus, and Castanea nuts in eastern North America and their caching behavior in the wild has been well documented. Recovery of caches by the same individual Blue Jay that created the caches has not been demonstrated. In order to do this, I conducted a laboratory study in which I examined caching and recovery behaviors. I 'compared the performance of caching birds with noncaching birds and with a random foraging model. Blue Jays do return to their own caches with success rates higher than predicted by random searching and they also probe fewer sites than predicted by random.

They also recover caches at success rates higher than non-caching birds searching for the same caches as well as probe fewer sites than the non-caching birds. There is a difference in probing patterns for recovered caches between caching birds and non-caching birds that suggests the use of spatial memory by caching birds and a difference in foraging strategies between the two groups. Cache recovery order does not exhibit either a primacy or recency effect and cache recovery order does not appear to correlate to nearest neighbor distance models.

food caching, spatial memory, seed dispersal, blue jay