Food Caching by Northern Hawk Owl
Outdoor Ontario

Food Caching by Northern Hawk Owl


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The appearance of a Northern Hawk Owl in Schomberg provides a great opportunity to study the bird up close. One of the fascinating behaviour to watch is its penchant for storing prey items for later consumption. Hawk Owl uses scatter-caching technique whereby they store food items at various locations distributed over a wide area and not just pile up in one place. Retrieving food items from these widely scattered areas is quite taxing to its memory. So I wondered how good is its memory when it comes to retrieve cached prey items? I couldn't find a definitely answer anywhere. So I decided to see it myself. The image below is a composite from two shots taken 24 hours apart, The one on the left is taken just when the bird was leaving the branch where it cached its recently caught vole. The second photo on the right was taken 24 hours later; the vole was still there untouched. If the bird is caching for long term then 24 hours might be too short a time for the bird to retrieve its cache given the abundance of food in the area. I wanted to go back today to see if it is still there, unfortunately the weather is not too favorable for driving. The day the first photo was taken I saw the bird catching and caching two other voles, consuming none and it was all in two hours that I was there The photos #2 and #3 show the second caching. Since it hunts whole day and catches at least 5 voles per day, while eating only two or three - how good is it to make use of the remainder of the dead prey items that it stashed? I don't know the answer. Isn't it wasteful to kill more than what it can consume? Also, leaving those dead prey items will attract other cache pilferers, I have seen a few crows flying around. Fascinating behavior to watch for sure.

1. First caching and its status 24 hours later

2. Second caching of a vole about 100 meters away from the first tree.

3. Caching complete and is now about to leave.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »