Date: 7/31/17 11:21 am
From: Christopher Hill <Chill...>
Subject: Re: "Anting"

I haven’t seen anyone else answering this. I would call it “sunning” rather than anting. Many birds do this - no ants needed! I had a pet starling, and when he perched on a sunny windowsill or my arm in the sun immediately his head would loll over to the side, his wings would droop, and his breathing would go all scratchy and labored. He seemed to be in some sort of very weird ecstasy. Barn Swallows in the heat of summer love to bake themselves on roads. I would guess it either kills feather parasites, or maybe feather bacteria, but I haven’t read any research on the behavior. I did note when doing fieldwork with individually marked Song Sparrows that some individual sparrows (like my pet starling) were kind of addicted to it - I’d catch this one female sunning all the time, while other birds I never ever saw doing it. And since they’re in an eyes-glazed trance when they do it, I imagine there is increased risk of predation (if I could spot that female song sparrow in the open and unaware, so could a Sharp-shinned Hawk), so logically there *should* be a measurable benefit).

Chris Hill
Conway, SC

> On Jul 29, 2017, at 4:34 PM, Gretchen Schramm <Carolinabirds...> wrote:
> This summer has been really, really hot!
> I've taken lots of photographs of cardinals, brown thrashers, mockers and blue jays "anting" in the hottest part of the day, in the sunniest places to (literally) bake.
> Even Cornell's description of 'anting' is not satisfying my curiosity.
> The mocker and blue jay were not on the ground (see CBC Photo Gallery), so I wonder about the ants and what the true reason is behind them choosing 90+ degrees to lay splayed in the blistering sun, panting.
> Any thoughts?
> Thanks.
> Gretchen
> Wilmington, NC

Join us on Facebook!