Monday, October 27, 2008

Jays and Acorns

The blue jays were quite active and loud today. They were spending most of their time in the water oaks feasting on the new crop of acorns. I watched as they would snatch an acorn, hold it in their claws, and then hammer it repeatedly with their thick bill to get at the pumpkin-colored meat within. One particular jay was plucking acorns and then swallowing them one after another until its expandable throat had its fill before heading off into the thicket. The swallowed acorns weren’t actually eaten, but carried to an area of the jay’s choice, regurgitated into a pile, and then each buried or “cached” under leaf litter until later. Squirrels and mice also exhibit this behavior. This caching not only acts as food storage, but also inadvertently aids in acorn dispersal. Acorns in forgotten caches may ultimately survive, germinate, and produce new generations of oaks. A perfect example of symbiosis at work.

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