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Corvids could save forests from the effects of climate change

Stashed in: Awesome, Birds!, Climate Change, Birds, Animals, Climate Change!

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Crows and their kin can MOVE FORESTS with their nut-burying ways.

Yes! Scatter hoarding for the win!

Corvids, a family of birds that includes crows, ravens, jays, magpies, and nutcrackers, are called scatter-hoarders. They roam large territories to scavenge seeds, fruit, and even meat, storing as many morsels as possible to eat later. That's the "hoard" part. But they don't have one giant stash full of loot the way squirrels do. Instead, they hide each treat in a separate place, occasionally moving it around to prevent other animals from finding it. That's the "scatter" part. Corvids are incredibly intelligent, with excellent visual memory, and scrub jays can remember up to 200 different cache locations at any given time.

Unfortunately for forests—they can't remember everything. Each year, a certain percentage of the birds' cached seeds goes uneaten. Because the birds like to hide food just an inch or two under the soil, these seeds have a chance to take root and grow into trees.

Over millennia of evolution, this arrangement has become mutually beneficial. Many large-seeded trees have co-evolved with corvids, developing seeds that contain lots of carbohydrates so the birds fill up faster. As a result, corvids are less likely to gobble up seeds on the spot—they'll be sated and may even fly tens of kilometers to hide the seeds.

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