Abstract. Gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis) cache thousands of food items during each summer for use during the subsequent winter. Previous work on the economics of gray jay scatter-hoarding behavior was based on the assumption that the jays maximize the rate at which they store food energy; alternative currencies were not considered. Here we develop and test models based on two currencies, net rate (net recoverable energy stored per unit time) and efficiency (recoverable energy stored per unit energy expended). Our experiment involved providing gray jays with two options. After collecting a single food item upon arrival at a feeding apparatus, a jay could wait for two additional food items to become (simultaneously) available and then transport all three items for storage in scattered arboreal sites. Alternatively, the jay could immediately transport the single item to a storage site and return to the source repeatedly for additional single-item loads. By incrementally increasing the amount of time jays were required to wait for multiple-item loads, we were able to determine how long jays would wait before switching from multiple- to single-item caching trips. In contrast with the finding in a variety of species that efficiency-maximization models provide a better account of foraging behavior, the net rate-maximization model was a better predictor of the jays switching point than was the efficiency-maximization model (Figs. 2 and 3). We discuss these conflicting results in the context of recent theory that describes the conditions favoring rate- versus efficiency-maximizing behavior (Ydenberg et al. 1994).
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.