Saturday, 29 September 2012

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis

     At this time of the year birds like nuthatches and chickadees are kept very busy gathering and caching food to prepare for the winter ahead when food will be in short supply. An adequate larder may well represent the difference between life and death, particularly in a severe winter with extensive snow cover. This individual was constantly at our feeders yesterday, gathering seed, only to return minutes later for more. The bird flew off in different directions, doubtless hiding food in many locations. This obviously reduces the possibility of losing all the food stored if a single cache is discovered by marauding squirrels for example. The flip side is that the birds must be able to remember many different storage locations and studies have in fact revealed that avian families that store food have at least temporary enhancement of the hippocampal area of the brain to facilitate this live-preserving skill.

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