Monday, July 5, 2010

Buff-Rumped Woodpecker 'Fishing' for Ants

It was late afternoon and it was terribly hot. I took a shelter under a tree by the side of the track and to my surprise, there was a pair of Buff-Rumped Woodpecker right above me. I carefully position the camera to get a clear view of the birds but it's always a challenge to get  clear shots through the branches. I fired a few shots and when I looked at the display I noticed that the female bird was actually feeding on ants that got stuck on her feathers.

This was how she 'fished' for the ants : She sat quietly on the branch with the most ants for a while and let the ants climb onto her body and bit her.

And then, she would just pick the ants that were stuck on her feathers one after another....

A very clever trick, indeed....

But the male didn't seem to be interested with the ants 'snack' at all....


  1. great capture!! last is perfect! regards

  2. Hi Ari

    What you observed was a behaviour known as 'anting'. The bird is thought to squeeze the formic acid out of the ant onto the feathers; the acid acts as a kind of fungicide, to keep parasites in check. So, probably not eating the ants, just using them for personal hygiene!


  3. Great 'anting' shots. Probably somebody could market this as a health product and set up a franchise! Definitely I will not be their first customer, Ouch ouch ouch:)

  4. Dave, thanks for sharing your vast knowledge on my blog, I didn't know about this 'anting' thing before this. Thanks Madi and Andrea for your compliments.

  5. Great captures of this woodpecker!
    I especially like the last one, showing the male's red "whisker" clearly.

  6. An impressive bird and impressive photos Ari. You really have some very interesting and different birds in your part of the world.

  7. Dave, anting is new to me, thanks for sharing.
    Ari, great shots.