American Elephants

This 5-Ounce Bird Stores 10,000 Maps In Its Head by The Elephant's Child


At the beginning of December, this four or five ounce bird has, amassed in its tiny brain, conservatively, 5,000, or even 10,000 treasure maps in its head. The Clark’s nutcracker has been burying seeds since August. Its hidden so many seeds in the forest, tree crotches and meadows that it can fly up, look down and see little x’s marking those spots, and do the same thing for perhaps two miles around and remember where those x’s are for the next nine months.

Beginning in high summer, when whitebark pines produce seeds in their cones, the nutcrackers dash from tree to tree, and with sharp beaks, tear into the cones, pulling the seeds out one by one. One study clocked a nutcracker harvesting 32 seeds per minute. They have a double chin-like pouch under their bills that can hold around 92.7 seeds, or even up to 150 for the largest birds. They have long sharp beaks. They are birds of the mountains, even the high mountains across the country, not just in eastern white pine forests.

They land, peck little holes in the topsoil or under leaf litter, or leave seeds in nooks in the rough bark to prepare. When it gets cold, they know right where the seeds are stored. Absolutely amazing. The seeds they don’t recover replenish the forests.

From ‘Seriously Krulwich’ a blog by Robert Krulwich at National Geographic. The bird is sitting in a spruce tree, but the white pine is below.



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