Western scrub-jays conceal auditory information when competitors can hear but cannot see


Western scrub-jays (Aphelocoma californica) engage in a variety of cache-protection strategies to reduce the chances of cache theft by conspeci- fics. Many of these strategies revolve around reducing visual information to potential thieves. This study aimed to determine whether the jays also reduce auditory information during caching. Each jay was given the opportunity to cache food in two trays, one of which was filled with small pebbles that made considerable noise when cached in (‘noisy’ tray), whereas the other one contained soil that made little detectable noise when cached in (‘quiet’ tray). When the jays could be heard, but not seen, by a competitor, they cached proportionally less food items in the ‘noisy’ substrate than when they cached alone in the room, or when they could be seen and heard by competitors. These results suggest that western scrub-jays know when to conceal auditory information, namely when a competitor cannot see but can hear the caching event.

In Biology Letters