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Hummingbirds can clock flower refills

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11:54am, April 11, 2006

Hummingbirds can keep track of when a particular flower has replenished its nectar and is worth visiting again, say researchers working in the Canadian Rockies.

That knack may require that hummingbirds have parts of what's called episodic memory, says T. Andrew Hurly of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. When people recall episodes from their lives, they're remembering what happened and where and when. Clocking nectar refills means hummingbirds remember at least "when" and "where," Hurly and his colleagues say in the March 7 Current Biology.

For decades, people touted episodic memory as a uniquely human ability. However, there's some evidence that other animals have similar mental capabilities, says Hurly. For example, a different research group found that scrub jays can remember where and when they hid perishable food (SN: 9/19/98, p. 181).

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