Where to find your next meal

I saw birds storing seed from the bird feeder in tree niches during the fall, but it looks like that behavior is important in the winter as well.  The White-breasted Nuthatch who provided the comical poses the other day was intent on caching both sunflower seeds and suet in the cracks in the bark of the buckeye tree.  

It looks like the bird is storing both suet and a sunflower seed in the same crack.

Poking that seed way into the crack in the bark

Stuffing a chunk of suet into this crack

Stuffing a chunk of suet into this crack

The only drawback of this strategy is that other birds may avail themselves of the resource, once they discover the wealth of riches hidden in the tree.  Perhaps the cached food is only seen or removable by birds who forage in the head-down position, like the nuthatches, safe from all the woodpeckers and chickadees that cruise the bark as well.

white-breasted nuthatch

It’s probably just as well that birds don’t count on us unreliable humans who fail to fill the feeders on time, or who leave town for extended periods without providing back-up feeder fillers.

8 thoughts on “Where to find your next meal

  1. We do think about our birds when we visit the family in the UK. Luckily we have a neighbour who pops in to keep an eye on the house when we are away and she refills the feeders when she is over. Not as good as daily attention but they will just have to make do until we get back. At least we haven’t had had an extremely cold weather yet.

    • I wrote that bit mostly out of my own guilt, because we when we leave for a month in the winter, I have not asked neighbors to keep a watch on the seed supply. Maybe I better start taking my own advice!

    • Most birds have no sense of smell (except turkey vultures), and yes, they are really good at remembering where they put their seed stash. There are many studies showing that birds are better than graduate students at spatial memory tasks!

  2. I participate in Project FeederWatch and yesterday while I was observing, the Nuthatches and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker did just what you described. They cached sunflower seeds in my Apple and Cottonwood tree bark. The Blue Jay did the same thing with a whole peanut. The Apple Tree has fire blight which was probably why they were able to get the seeds in the bark.

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