Journal of Ethology

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 79–82 | Cite as

Common ravens raid arctic fox food caches

  • Vincent CareauEmail author
  • Nicolas Lecomte
  • Jean-François Giroux
  • Dominique Berteaux
Short Communication


Cache recovery is critical for evolution of hoarding behaviour, because the energy invested in caching may be lost if consumers other than the hoarders benefit from the cached food. By raiding food caches, animals may exploit the caching habits of others, that should respond by actively defending their caches. The arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) is the main predator of lemmings and goose eggs in the Canadian High Arctic and stores much of its prey in the ground. Common ravens (Corvus corax) are not as successful as foxes in taking eggs from goose nests. This generalist avian predator regularly uses innovation and opportunism to survive in many environments. Here, we provide the first report that ravens can successfully raid food cached by foxes, and that foxes may defend their caches from ravens.


Alopex lagopus Corvus corax Food caching Cache raiding Defence of food caches Foraging innovation Bylot Island 



Thanks to Gabrielle Darou and Ambroise Lycke for field assistance. We are indebted to the Hunters and Trappers Association of Pond Inlet, Nunavut Territory, for assistance and support. VC is grateful to the Mountain Equipment Coop for providing material and to Sanimal for a scholarship. Université Laval and the Centre d’Études Nordiques provided financial assistance to NL. Funding and support were provided by the Polar Continental Shelf Project, Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canada Network of Centres Excellence ArcticNet, and the Canada Research Chair Program. We thank Luc Alain Giraldeau, Denis Réale, Louis Lefebvre, and the Groupe de Recherche en Écologie Comportementale et Animale (GRÉCA) for fruitful discussions and Heather Bryan for proofreading. We are grateful to two anonymous referees for constructive comments on the manuscript. This is Polar Continental Shelf Project contribution no 01905.


  1. Andersson M, Krebs J (1978) On the evolution of hoarding behaviour. Anim Behav 26:701–707Google Scholar
  2. Andersson S (1989) Tool use by the fan-tailed raven (Corvus rhipidurus). Condor 91:999–999CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bêty J, Gauthier G, Giroux J-F, Korpimäki E (2001) Are goose nesting success and lemming cycles linked? Interplay between nest density and predators. Oikos 93:388–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bêty J, Gauthier G, Korpimäki E, Giroux J-F (2002) Shared predators and indirect trophic interactions: lemming cycles and arctic-nesting geese. J Anim Ecol 71:88–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brockman HJ, Barnard CJ (1979) Kleptoparasitism in birds. Anim Behav 27:487–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bugnyar T, Kotrschal K (2002a) Observational learning and the raiding of food caches in ravens, Corvus corax: is it ‘tactical’ deception? Anim Behav 64:185–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bugnyar T, Kotrschal K (2002b) Scrounging tactics in free-ranging ravens, Corvus corax. Ethology 108:993–1009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Elmhagen B, Tannerfeldt M, Verucci P, Angerbjorn A (2000) The arctic fox (Alopex lagopus): an opportunistic specialist. J Zool 251:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ficken MS (1977) Avian play. Auk 94:573–582Google Scholar
  10. Gauthier G, Bêty J, Giroux JF, Rochefort L (2004) Trophic interactions in a high arctic goose colony. Integr Comp Biol 44:119–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gauthier G, Giroux JF, Reed A (2005) Interactions between land use, habitat use and population increase in greater snow geese: what are the consequences for natural wetlands? Global Change Biol 11:856–868CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Heinrich B (1995) An experimental investigation of insight in Common Ravens (Corvus corax). Auk 112:994–1003Google Scholar
  13. Heinrich B, Pepper JW (1998) Influence of competitors on caching behaviour in the common raven, Corvus corax. Anim Behav 56:1083–1090CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Henry JD (1986) Red fox: the catlike canine. Smithsonian Institution Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  15. Lefebvre L, Whittle P, Lascaris E, Finkelstein A (1997) Feeding innovations and forebrain size in birds. Anim Behav 53:549–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lepage D, Nettleship DN, Reed A (1998) Birds of Bylot Island and adjacent Baffin Island, Northwest Territories, Canada, 1979 to 1997. Arctic 51:125–141Google Scholar
  17. Macdonald DW (1976) Food caching by red foxes and some other carnivores. Z Tierpsychol 42:170–185PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Nelson AL (1934) Some early summer food preferences of the American raven in southeastern Oregon. Condor 36:10–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Reader SM, Laland KN (2003) Animal Innovation. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  20. Reed A, Hughes RJ, Boyd H (2002) Patterns of distribution and abundance of Greater Snow Geese on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada 1983–1998. Wildfowl 53:53–65Google Scholar
  21. Samelius G, Alisauskas RT (2000) Foraging patterns of arctic foxes at a large arctic goose colony. Arctic 53:279–288Google Scholar
  22. Smith CC, Reichman OJ (1984) The evolution of food caching by birds and mammals. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 15:329–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stickney A (1991) Seasonal pattern of prey availability and the foraging behavior of arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) in a waterfowl nesting area. Can J Zool 69:2853–2859Google Scholar
  24. Vander Wall SB (1990) Food hoarding in animals. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vincent Careau
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Nicolas Lecomte
    • 3
  • Jean-François Giroux
    • 1
  • Dominique Berteaux
    • 2
  1. 1.Département des sciences biologiques and Groupe de recherche en écologie comportementale et animaleUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Chaire de recherche du Canada en conservation des écosystèmes nordiques and Centre d’études nordiquesUniversité du Québec à RimouskiRimouskiCanada
  3. 3.Département de biologie and Centre d’Études NordiquesUniversité LavalQuébecCanada

Personalised recommendations