Jay Watch: Birds get sneakier when spies lurk

8:35am, May 17, 2006

In the thief-ridden world of western scrub jays, a bird storing food takes note of any other jay that watches it and later defends the hoard accordingly, says a new study.

A difference in hiding tactics showed up in lab tests where birds cached some of their favorite food in ice cube trays filled with pellets, says Nicola Clayton of the University of Cambridge in England. When the birds revisited these trays, they used elaborate ruses to hide the food again if the original watcher was hanging around once more, Clayton and her colleagues report in an upcoming Science.

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