Recaching Decisions of Florida Scrub-Jays are Sensitive to Ecological Conditions


Ipek G. Kulahci, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, 106A Guyot Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


Food caching animals depend on their caches at times of low food availability. Because stored food is susceptible to being stolen or degraded, many species employ cache protection strategies such as ceasing caching in the presence of others or avoiding storing perishable items for long periods. Several species frequently recover their caches and recache, which may reduce pilferage or degradation of cached items. We studied the food handling decisions of Florida scrub-jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) after cache recovery to determine the roles that social and ecological environments play in post-recovery decisions. Instead of reducing recaching in the presence of others, recovering jays flew away from the recovery site, allowing them to eat or recache a recovered item regardless of the social context. Microhabitat type and soil moisture of the recovery sites had a significant influence on whether recoveries were eaten or recached; most items that were recached had been recovered from bare sand sites or sites with low soil moisture. Taken together, our results suggest that food store management of Florida scrub-jays are unaffected by the social context, but are strongly affected by the habitat conditions that influence the quality of caches.