Did you ever notice birds hiding their seed in some really odd places? Some birds do it hundreds, even thousands of times, going back and forth with beaks full of seed.
Are they like squirrels where they remember where they put them? You bet they do, no bird brains here. Well actually birds are pretty intelligent for their size. It seems better than us always looking for where we left our keys last.
There are quite a few that cache food, but the most common and easily seen are the Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch and the Chickadee.
The first bird I ever noticed doing it was a Nuthatch putting seed inside crevices in the mortar joints of my garage. He went on all day stuffing seed in to openings. Funny thing was other birds were watching and when he left to get more seed, they proceeded to take what was stored for themselves.
The next bird I saw do this was a Titmouse. He had a better plan by storing it in the bark of downed trees. It made discovery a bit more difficult for the thieves.
I have read where some birds have remembered thousands and thousands of caches. The leader among the hoarders in my garden seems to be the Blue Jays. I have watched them cart up to four peanuts in one trip. I understand, they can carry even more at onetime in their throat.
How do they remember you might ask? Research has shown that birds remember landmarks in the landscape, like rocks, shrubs and certain trees. Since they go on landmarks and not the seed location, if something is moved, well they just can’t find the bounty. Some birds do find seed they left without the benefit of landmarks, but that is less common. The cached food occurs mostly during the fall and winter when food supplies are likely to become scarce. Want the science? (source)
I think it is pretty amazing birds do this. Science study estimates chickadees cache as many as one hundred thousand food items per year, not even reusing old cache sites. They do all this without olfactory cues and rely on spacial and object-oriented landmarks.
You would think the birds are trying to keep seed dry by selecting a cache based on protection from the elements, but that is not the case.
They do it out of concern for the seed being robbed by other birds as I mentioned on the Nuthatch. Finding good locations really is something on which their life depends.
Storing food for lean times makes these birds pretty resourceful in my book, even pretty smart. Now who calls these birds bird brained?
Next, is that a robin doing that?