Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) are one of the four North American woodpeckers that store food, especially large seeds like acorns. They stash whole or pieces of seeds and nuts in cracks and crevices, pounding them into place with a few mighty whacks of their chisel bill. But not just any hole will do as a storage site, as I learned from watching this handsome male while he decided where to stash his prize.
Red-bellied woodpeckers are year-round residents in the eastern U.S., but just barely make it into southeastern Minnesota, where there are still plenty of oak trees and back yard bird feeders to support them through the winter.
But the real trick is finding the stash when you need it on a cold, winter day. As you might expect, birds that cache seed are really good at remembering where they put it, even weeks and months later. Scrub Jays, in fact, were better than the graduate students studying them, in remembering not only the exact location of the cached seed, but how long ago they stored it.
For more information on the fantastic memory skills of the “bird brain”, check out the video below.