An Unlikely Relationship Between Ants And Birds

You would think that ants and birds would not have much to do with one another given the significant size difference, as well as just about any other difference you can conjure. However, years of anecdotal reports tell of a strange relationship between ants and birds, and this relationship involves birds allowing numerous ants to crawl throughout their feathers. This behavior is called “anting,” and it apparently feels really good for the birds involved.

Over two hundred different species of birds indulge in this activity, but why? Although the reasons behind “anting” are not universally agreed upon, experts think that birds encourage ants to crawl all over them because it promotes feather maintenance, and it probably just feels good.

It is important to note that many ants secrete formic acid from various glands. Given this information, some experts think that the ants crawl through the feathers of birds in order to wipe off all the traces of the noxious formic acid. It is further believed that the ants do this so that the birds can consume them without falling victim to formic acid poisoning. If this hypothesis is true, then these are some very gracious ants, but you would think that any living creature would be concerned with its own preservation. In any case, an actual scientific study is certainly in order regarding this phenomenon.

Have you ever witnessed a bird willingly allowing ants to crawl all over their bodies?

About smithereenpestmanagement

Smithereen Pest Management provides IPM pest services to residential and commercial clients in Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri. http://www.smithereen.com/
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