NATURE’S COLLECTORS AND HOARDERS
Happy Fall everyone! The leaves are turning colors, the weather is “starting” to get cooler, and animals are beginning to prepare for winter. Last week we got to see some jays storing their seeds and nuts. Jays are not the only animal to display this “collecting” or “hoarding” behavior, many other birds and even rodents will store food. Scientists also call this type of behavior “caching” because these animals will store a cache of food. Sometimes they will do this in times of surplus for a time in the future when food will be less plentiful–other times animals will store food because it needs to ripen.
Rodents (squirrels, hamsters, and mice) will hoard their food using different strategies. Hamsters will use a single location or a “larder” to store their food. Usually, their larder is in their nest where they live and have easy access to their stores of food. The downside of this technique is that other animals can easily raid or steal from the single food source. Usually, this means that the animals which use the larder hoarding must be very defensive of their territory and hoard.
Squirrels will use multiple smaller hoards to store their food. This technique is called “scatter hoarding.” The downside of this technique is that the multiple caches will require lots of memory and cannot be as easily defended. The scatter hoarding method actually contributes to seed dispersal and encourages plant growth!
Some animals will focus their efforts on hoarding as a group or will hoard individually. While others will focus their efforts on pilfering or stealing from the caches. Rodents and birds will do both where they will steal and hoard other animals food storage. It can become very competitive and animals will be very careful in their hiding spots or will be very protective. Jays are especially vocal when protecting their caches. But as we go into Fall keep your eyes open for our fellow animals that are preparing for their own seasonal and holiday “feasts!”