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Are there many birds that bury food?

Sent in by Georgina Marshall, Hampshire

Acrobatic coal tits can often be found darting amongst the branches of conifer trees in search of food.

They also visit seed-feeders in gardens and this is especially so when such feeders are in proximity of conifer trees. When food supply is plentiful, coal tits, using their slender bill, extract some of these seeds and then promptly store them for eating later. These stores can amount to large volumes in various sites. 

The reason why coal tits hoard seeds is for times when food is less readily available, such as during the colder winter months. Coal tits are not the only bird species that store food for this reason. Other species that do include magpies and jays.

During the autumn months and dependent on food availability, jays will actively collect and hoard acorns, along with beech and hazel nuts - the latter to a lesser extent as jays primarily prefer acorns. Jays store this food source in the ground, amongst leaf litter and within roots and moss. Jays will push at least one, maybe two, acorns into the ground per store and these are then hammered into the ground for good measure should the acorns still be visible. During the spring and winter months, jays (having remembered the location of these store sites), dig up and eat the stored food.

When there is plenty of food around, magpies will also hoard surplus food for later consumption. Using their beaks, magpies will make holes in the ground and then place the food in it. This will then be covered up with either leaves or grass for later retrieval. These food stores are normally dotted around the magpie’s territory.

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