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Birds behaving strangely

December 29, 2012
Yellow-faced Honeyeaters

Yellow-faced Honeyeaters

We received this report of strange bird behaviour from Susan and Joel from Strath Creek:
“Outside our kitchen window dead leaves from a Silky Oak have formed a platform in a spindly bottle brush (Callistemon sp.). The other day we watched young Yellow-faced Honeyeaters stretch and lie on this platform with wings spread, eyes closed and beaks up, as if dead. After a while they started to pant (the temperature was in the 30’s) and eventually jumped up. Several birds repeated the same behaviour and we noticed there was a preferred spot on the platform. As one bird moved from this spot, another would take its place. We have not seen them return since that day! We wonder what this behaviour means – could it be related to the summer solstice?”

A possible alternative explanation that occurred to us was that the birds were engaging in “anting”, whereby they allow ants to crawl over their body or in some cases pick up ants in their bill and rub them on their feathers. Theories on the reasons for this behaviour are many and varied, including using the ants’ formic acid to combat mites, fungi or bacteria, to obtain Vitamin D, or even to gain an intoxicating effect! Of course the birds may just have been sunning themselves – another means they may use for parasite control and/or for Vitamin D.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Susan and Joel King permalink
    December 30, 2012 3:23 pm

    Thank you for the explanations… I didn’t really think it was the solstice lol.

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