by Em
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More birds have been displaying anting behavior in my backyard recently. When you don’t know what’s going on it can be kind of alarming. They spread out their feathers and sit still, and usually their beaks are wide open.

Last week I walked into my office and shrieked when I noticed a crow sitting on top of my platform feeder. His outstretched wings were covering most of the feeder and his head was tilted back with a gaping mouth.

I’ve also had robins anting in the grass this summer, and one day a Blue Jay and robin were doing it side by side.

Scientists do not agree on why birds engage in this odd behavior. Often the birds land near or sit on an ant hill and either let the ants crawl over their feathers, or they crush the ants and rub them on their feathers. It may be a way to get rid of parasites, or a way to relieve the itch of parasites or even a way to make ants tastier. These scientists think Blue Jays do it to make the ants tastier.

The spot where the birds are landing in my yard to “ant” doesn’t have any visible ant hills. And there certainly aren’t any ants on my platform birdfeeder (I checked!). Maybe birds engage in this weird behavior for reasons that haven’t even been discovered yet!

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