Friday, October 23, 2015

Something about a bird

Clark's Nutcracker
You can call them "Clark's Nutcracker" (no relation) or by their biological name Nucifraga columbiana, but you can't call them "birdbrain."  

Clark's Nutcracker is a bird we don't get to see here in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States; they live in high mountains in the western part of North America, from British Columbia and western Alberta in the north down as far as Baja California and New Mexico to the south. If they can't find enough food where they are, they might jot over to Illinois or Pennsylvania for takeout. Wouldn't you think that if they come to PA, they would just wander down to Maryland? But no.  

These guys love to eat pine seeds, in much the same way we love to put pine nuts on our salads, and they don't even need bleu cheese dressing with theirs. Let them near some pine cones and they are happy; they can find all the chow they will need, and carry a lot of with them! They are gray-and-black, with white in the tail and wing. And their bills are sharp. They use them to dig into a pine cone and get the seeds. Clark's Nutcrackers have a sublingual (beneath the tongue) pouch that will hold 50–150 seeds, as well as their car keys and the garage door remote.

But here is why we can't label them as "birdbrains." These birds store seeds, in little piles of a dozen or so. They put them in the ground, and this does two things for them: in the long run, it allows for more pine trees to sprout and grow to provide more food for future nutcrackers, and of course it provides a nice stash of seeds for later use.  

Fly high, Freeeeeeeee Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrd
Bird experts figure that a single Clark's nutcracker can cache away as many as 98,000 seeds per year, and here's the kicker: they remember where as many as 70% of the seeds are planted!  We think birds are dumb, what with their little tiny brains, and yet they remember to sock some food away and they remember where most of it is!

And half the time, I can't even remember where I left my lunch.

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