Western scrub-jays do not employ cache-protection strategies when exposed to an observer simulated by video playback. (#420)
Food-caching corvids use a suite of different strategies to protect their cached food from potential pilferers. These strategies are dependent on what a pilferer is able to see or hear: for example, Western scrub-jays and Eurasian jays prevent or reduce visual and auditory access of potential pilferers to their caches (Clayton, Dally, & Emery, 2007; Dally, Emery, & Clayton, 2005, 2006, 2010; Emery & Clayton, 2001; Shaw & Clayton, 2012; Stulp, Emery, Verhulst, & Clayton, 2009). Here, we used video playback to address the question of whether scrub-jays respond to the moving image of a bird and if so, whether they take into account the direction of attention of an observer, that is if they differentiate between one that is attentive and one that is not. Scrub-jays were presented with videos of an observer facing towards them, or away from them, or with a video of an empty cage (non-social control) whilst they could cache food in two different locations - one ‘in sight’ of the video screen and one ‘hidden’ behind a barrier. If jays understand that only an attentive observer would know the location of their caches, they should cache more behind the barrier when presented with the video of the observer facing towards them than when presented with the other two videos.
Our results show that the stimuli presented on the video screen did not influence the jays’ caching behaviour: there was no preference for caching in the ‘hidden’ location when the jays were presented with a conspecific facing towards them compared to the presentation of a conspecific facing away from them or with an empty cage. We discuss the implications of these findings regarding jays’ cache protection strategies.
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