I was watching an episode of Nature on PBS about animal intelligence. One of the case studies was the Clark’s Nutcracker which lives in the American West (their example bird was at the Grand Canyon, which may be because it made for better scenery). I knew that birds do some amazing things. Migration is no picnic, but there are bower birds that build elaborate houses to attract mates and woodpecker finches in the Galapagos that use sticks to fish out bugs from trees. Anyway, the Clark’s Nutcracker likes to eat pine nuts, but they are only around for three weeks of the year. So apparently it picks as many as it can and then hides them by burying them in the ground and sometimes marking the spot with a small pebble. It seems like it would be easier to store them all in the same place, but it scatters the nuts out over hundreds of square miles, only putting a few in each place. It then has the memory to come back later in the year to retrieve the nut. That’s a good trick, but the amazing part is that during that three week period it will hide as many as 30,000 nuts and retains memory to retrieve 90% of the nuts it hides.
The show was Part 1 of the 3-part series that was done in 2000 but is being shown again. Part 2 is this weekend.