Assuming you don’t have heavy squirrel pressure, have you ever noticed that it seems like your bird seed disappears significantly faster than your birds should be able to eat it? If so, do you have Titmice, Chickadees, Nuthatches, and Blue Jays that visit your feeders? If the answer is yes, then you’re witnessing firsthand one of their innate survival behaviors, seed caching!
Seed caching is when birds, or other seed eaters such as Chipmunks, take seeds that they forage for and hide them in places throughout their territory. These caches are essentially the bird’s “rainy day” food source and are used both during times of bad weather when foraging isn’t safe or when food sources are scarce. Caches can be in any place with an available nook or cranny, including tree bark, underground, wood piles such as the photo shown here with a seed cache found when removing a piece of wood, or even under your shingles! If you accidentally disturb a cache, don’t worry about the bird who saved it, they have many caches throughout their territory so if one gets disturbed, the bird won’t be bothered too much.
If you notice one of the aforementioned birds grab a seed and disappear, it is most likely them taking the seed to their cache. Once it’s safely stored, they will often return to the feeder and repeat the process. Finches and Cardinals, on the other hand, are not caching birds, which is why they typically stick around and eat the seed right at your feeder.
If you really want a good show and have a healthy Blue Jay population, stick a pile of in-shell peanuts out and see how long it takes them to cache all of them. Spoiler, it doesn’t take long!