Pine nut stash

With so many of its seeds sacrificed to fatten up woodland mammals for winter, a Clark's nutcracker is just what the whitebark pine has been waiting for to help it reproduce. With its perfectly shaped beak, the nutcracker prises the nuts from the cones and tucks them one by one into a special pouch under its tongue. Up to 150 at a time are stored, a fifth of its entire body weight. The nutcracker then flies as far as 15 miles away and drills the nuts into the ground in sets of ten, placing a stone on top of each stash to mark the site. Over the autumn, a single bird can bury 30,000 nuts across an area of 100 square miles. When the winter comes it will manage to remember the location of a staggering 70% of these seeds, even when hidden beneath the snow. But as the Clark’s nutcracker remembers its way into surviving the winter, it becomes the whitebark’s greatest ally. Although its feat of memory is extraordinary, for every thousand seeds it buries, it still forgets three hundred. From all those missed seeds, carried far and wide across Yellowstone, new whitebark pines will germinate next spring.

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