This gray, white and black relative of the Jay is a very interesting bird. It is found only west of the Dakotas and usually at the higher elevations, (over 6,000 feet) where it feeds on pine seeds, especially those of the whitebark pine. It has a larger than normal hippocampus – the part of the brain that deals with spatial memory – and is capable of storing up to 30,000 seeds in over 2,500 locations that it spreads over its seasonal range from tree line where it lives in summer to the lower forest regions where it can be found in winter. I’ve seen it stated that where some birds will plant trees as a result of their seed caches, one of these over its lifetime can plant a whole forest. A Google search will yield a wealth of information on Nucifraga columbiana.
Tonight as I looked back at some of this year’s photos I came across this image. It was scanned from a not-too-good photo that was taken during an archery elk hunt in 1980 in Colorado’s San Juan Wilderness. It struck me as funny that when I first looked at the old photo I recognized the horses but didn’t immediately recognize the person (me).