Birds of a feather might flock together, but some birds prefer the company of ants, it seems. In a behavior that ornithologists are unable to fully explain, more than 200 bird species have been observed either resting on an anthill to let the little insects crawl through their feathers, or picking up dead ants and rubbing themselves with them. This practice is known as "anting," and theories abound to explain just why birds display this curious behavior. One possible explanation is that it could be a method to ease skin that has been irritated by molting. Or it could be a way for birds to remove parasites from their feathers. The latter theory seems particularly plausible, since ants secrete formic acid, which can kill lice and other pests. Similar pesticides come from other creatures, including millipedes, and from some flowers and even mothballs, all of which have been used by birds in the same manner as ants.
Facts about our feathered friends:
- A hummingbird's egg is similar in size to a pea or a small jellybean, while an ostrich egg is about as large as a cantaloupe.
- The chicken is the closest living relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex.
- Many owl species can swivel their heads 270 degrees in each direction, but they can't move or roll their eyes because of their rod-llke shape.