Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Social Media - Before Technology

ERJ's 85 inch, high-definition, flat screen TV.  Nature Channel only.
One of life's great mysteries is the efficiency that wild animals have in finding food.

A little appreciated fact is the ephemeral (temporary) nature of food sources in the wild.  Berries ripen,  fall to the ground and rot or are quickly eaten.  It is not like the grocery store where one can find ripe strawberries and blackberries year round.

The availability and quality of food in the wild is a constantly changing, shifting kaleidoscope.  Acorns may lie thickly upon the ground in mid-October.  By mid-November even finding a snack involves much rummaging and rooting about beneath fallen leaves.  By mid-January they amount to a rare find and getting to them involves moving much snow.

So how do deer know that I spread corn out in the middle of my pasture?

An entire herd, more than ten animals, will hit it at night. So it is not a case of a 'scout' deer finding it.

Most often they come from cross wind so I doubt that they scented the corn.

I often walk my property but only rarely fling out some corn for their enjoyment.  They only visit after I have flung corn.  So the sound of my walking around does not tip them off.

They are not randomly searching.  The snow is deep and the deer are staying put, conserving energy.  Somehow, they know there is enough, high quality food to make the trip worth their while.

How do they know???

A (big) little bird tells them


Picture from HERE
Yup.  I think the Blue Jays tell them.

Blue Jays are the town criers of the animal world.  They are not particularly social animals but they are like your Uncle Buddy...he is your best friend in the whole world as long as you are buying.

There is a strange logic to being a species that is territorially aggressive but a social feeders.  Given the mosaic distribution, glut-crash, perishable nature of most wild foods, it makes sense from a species standpoint to have dispersed observation but then to call others of your species to mop up desirable food sources as quickly as possible.

This works best if you are the largest of the common birds.  Your antics may also alert other species of birds but you and your buddies can bully your way through the light weight birds and exploit the food source at-will.

Feeding Blue Jays can be easily heard (by a human) from a quarter mile a way.  They are "trash talkers" without equal.  They also have a distinctive flight pattern that makes them very easy to identify.  Trash talking Blue Jays either mean a predator like a cat or a coyote...or it means a large quantity of high quality FOOD!  Cats and coyotes move.  Food bonanzas do not.

I have no way to prove it.  It is mostly a hunch.  It gives me pause to think that Social Media pre-dates Facebook by at least 100,000 years.  It makes me want to identify the "Blue Jays" in my circle of friends.  Yes, their ceaseless chatter can be tiresome.  But the information embedded within their chatter can confer advantage.


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