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Published on Aug 14, 2010
Saw this jay a while back from my window in the UK, crawling with ants. At first I thought this strange behaviour was unintentional and the bird had inadvertently chosen to perch on an ants' nest. However, Youtube user triturusboscai pointed out to me that this behaviour is fairly well documented in some species of birds and although the exact reason is uncertain, one line of thought is that birds use the ants' formic acid to protect against parasites etc. If you watch the jay closely, you can see that it is disturbed enough by the ants to peck some of them off, but not enough to actually fly away, so it seems to be getting some benefit from the behaviour. Maybe it really is parasite control and is associated with preening and feather maintenance, an essential activity for birds. Maybe with the ants crawling all over its body, it's experiencing a sensation somewhat akin to being tickled! The jay's behaviour here reminds me of a pet budgerigar we once had which we occasionally let fly loose round the kitchen. If it saw the tap dripping in the sink it would sometimes sit under it and let the drops trickle down its back. While doing this, its pupils would constrict similar to the jay here and it had similar wing and body movements to the jay as well. I should add that I inspected the ants' nest in this video and the ants appeared to be the common UK black garden ant, Lasius Niger. Black ants are harmless and like all other Formicine ants they do not have a sting and unlike the wood ants they don’t spray formic acid either. As far as I'm aware, this is the only anting footage ever captured where you can actually see the ants on the bird. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anting_%... www.garden-birds.co.uk Video licensing info: I have a further 2 mins 16 secs footage of this jay anting. Contact me via PM for licensing details. The background music is Mellow Motif 's Latin jazz cover of Lemon Tree (originally by Fool's Garden). Video Copyright (c) Blutey (2010).