Why Do Birds Cache ? – To Put Cache in the Bank for a Rainy Day


Looking and Planning.

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.


OK, got a plan.

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.


How about here?

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.

Just gotta get it in there.

Just gotta get it in there.

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.

Hum, need a new spot.

OK, anybody see that?.

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)


Maybe throw in a distraction.

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.

Round two!

Round two!

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.

Looks good here.

Looks good here.

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.


Looking over the options.

Storing food for lean times makes these birds pretty resourceful in my book, even pretty smart. Now who calls these birds bird brained?

Now this has potential.

Now this has potential.

Next, is that a robin doing that?


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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38 Responses to Why Do Birds Cache ? – To Put Cache in the Bank for a Rainy Day

  1. David says:

    Very interesting and nice illustrations!

  2. I didn’t know birds did that. Very interesting!

  3. An interesting observation on the intelligence of birds. It always amazes me how when we measure intelligence, it is against what we know of our own. When you start really looking into what animals and plants can do, it seems to require a less human-centric (arrogant?) measurement. After all, we are the only animals who are engaging in actions that will ultimately make our species extinct.

  4. Breezy says:

    Wow, this is so interesting! Now I won’t call myself a bird brain when I misplace my keys for the hundredth time. Maybe fish brain? No? Does any animal, other than humans, actually forget where they put something?

  5. swo8 says:

    That’s something I didn’t know. Lovely pictures, Donna.

  6. aussiebirder says:

    What an interesting observation Donna, I guess living in snow this is essential for these little guys to survive. We don’t see that sort of thing here as we do not have snow, birds migrate to warmer climates when it gets cold if their food source depletes. Great shots Donna and good spotting!

  7. Beautiful photo’s!

  8. Birds are amazing! I first notice this activity in our garden with the red bellied woodpeckers. I observed that some of the same spots are used year after year. I often wonder what they think when another bird happens upon their cache spot. One bird is a thief and the other thinks if found the jack pot.

  9. debsgarden says:

    Wow, this is fascinating! It is remarkable what good memories birds have. While we humans are so sure of our knowledge, I always wonder how little we really know about birds and other creatures!

  10. ALESIA says:

    Birds are just plain fun to watch!

  11. Sweet. I’ve seen them do this here, too. Watching bird behavior makes winter more tolerable. 😉

  12. bittster says:

    These little birds are some of my favorites, and even better to know how ‘smart’ they can be!

  13. Informative and well-written. Thanks.

  14. Our native Nuthatches do exactly the same here in the UK. We have seen them hiding peanuts under the boarding around our garage roof.

  15. commonweeder says:

    I had no idea that birds stored away food. Wonderful post and beautiful photographs.

  16. Great title for this posting, Donna. It really grabbed me. I love that titmouse! P. x

  17. Karen says:

    Such an interesting post, I had no idea that some birds did this. Thanks for sharing Donna.

  18. Andrea says:

    Those are very interesting! I wonder now if tropical birds do that too, maybe not because we don’t have seasons when they will not be able to find food. I guess they just fight over food, but no hoarding or banking.

  19. Dina says:

    Beautiful captures, Donna!

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