Scrub jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) remember the relative time of caching as well as the location and content of their caches

J Comp Psychol. 1999 Dec;113(4):403-16. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.113.4.403.


Two experiments examined whether food-storing scrub jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) could remember when they cached particular food items as well as what they cached and where. In Experiment 1, scrub jays cached and recovered perishable "wax worms" (wax moth larvae) and nonperishable peanuts in 2 visuospatially distinct and trial-unique trays. The birds searched preferentially for fresh wax worms if they had cached them 4 hr earlier but rapidly learned to search for peanuts and avoid decayed wax worms that had been cached 124 hr previously. This pattern also was observed when the food items were removed before recovery on test trials. These results were replicated in Experiment 2 using a procedure in which both types of food were cached in different sides of the same caching tray: On the basis of a single, trial-unique experience, scrub jays could remember the relative time of caching as well as what type of food was cached in each cache site.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior*
  • Birds
  • Food*
  • Memory*
  • Mental Processes*