ScienceDaily (Dec. 4, 2012) — In order to prevent other birds from stealing the food they are storing for later, Eurasian jays, a type of corvid, minimizes any auditory hints a potential pilferer may use to steal their cache (food that is buried for later use). The new research was published December 5, in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Corvids are prolific cachers (or hoarders), burying food such as acorns in several thousand locations over the course of a year. When food becomes scarce during winter and spring, they remember where they buried their caches and retrieve the food items. However, pilfering of caches is commonplace. As a result, they are often trying to minimize other birds stealing their food and maximize the food that they steal.
In the first experiment, the researchers gave the jays options to hide food in substrates which varied in the amount of noise they made (a tray containing noisy gravel and a tray containing quiet sand). The birds' preferences for using these different substrates were tested when they were alone, when they had another bird that could see and hear them and when there was another bird that could hear but could not see them.