By David Tomlinson
Sunday, 01 August 2010
Q) During the hot weather in June I watched a blackbird in my back garden apparently picking up ants and putting them among its feathers. The bird was all puffed up, with its wings and tail spread. What on earth was it doing? T. HALLETT By email
A) Anting is a well-known phenomenon among birds and has been studied extensively. However, despite the fact that many people have watched and reported anting behaviour, we still dont know exactly why birds do it.
Reasons put forward include the possibility that the formic acid produced by many ants helps to remove stale preening oil from the birds feathers, or acts as a form of insecticide.
Another suggestion is that the birds simply enjoy the feeling of ants in their feathers.
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