Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Current Zoology, 2017, 63(4), 363–367

doi: 10.1093/cz/zow075


Copyright 2016 by the authors. Published by Oxford University Press.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License


Scatter hoarding by corvids (crows, jays, magpies, and nutcrackers) provides seed dispersal for many large-seeded plants, including oaks and pines. When hoarding seeds, corvids often choose nonrandom locations throughout the landscape, resulting in differential survival of seeds. In the context of habitat restoration, such disproportional storing of seeds in areas suitable for germination and establishment can accelerate expansion and recovery of large-seeded tree populations and their associated ecosystems. Here, we investigate the spatial preferences of island scrub jays Aphelocoma insularis during scatter hoarding of acorns (Quercus spp.) on Santa Cruz Island. We use a large behavioral data set on the birds’ behavior in combination with seedling surveys and spatial analysis to determine whether 1) island scrub jays disproportionally cache seeds in specific habitat types, and 2) whether the preferred habitat type is suitable for oak regeneration. Our results show that the jays nonrandomly cache acorns across the landscape; they use chaparral and coastal sage scrub disproportionally while avoiding open and grassy areas. The areas used most often for caching were also the areas with the highest oak seedling densities. We discuss the potential role of these findings for the recovery of Santa Cruz Island’s oak habitat since the 1980s.