Anting, flying ants and drunken seagulls

Living by the sea we have many, many seagulls but I’m sorry to say I’m not sure what species we have – however, sitting upstairs here in my little writing room I have a great view of the sky, and a favourite bird perch – the neighbours’ roof. Probably before I finish writing this, some seagulls will come into view and I will be able to identify them.

One of the behaviours common to gulls and to other birds too, is anting; we didn’t ever notice this until we moved to the west country.  Anting involves birds sitting or almost lying on the ground, wings outspread, to get ants to climb into their feathers. They wriggle their wings backwards and forwards on the dusty ground to encourage the insects, and sometimes – although I’ve never noticed this, they pick up beakfulls of ants and smear them over their feathers. This seems like a pretty odd thing to do, but apparently they want the formic acid, and other secretions from the ants, which act as  an insecticide, miticide, fungicide, and bactericide. if you’ve ever been bitten by an ant you will know that even a tiny ant’s bite is very painful and long-lasting, so the seagulls and other birds must be pretty desperate to get rid of the bugs and mites!

On hot days, when the ants start flying then the seagulls start wheeling round the sky, squawking their heads off. I can see them from my window, round and round, screaming at each other.When I was looking this up I found out that sometimes the birds become intoxicated with overdoing the ants and the formic acid shots, and this is when they sometimes exhibit aggressive behaviour.  Like alcohol with humans, over indulging in ants can make seagulls ill, and can even kill them.

All is quiet outside, the baby sparrows have disappeared now, but I can hear the odd cheap, no sign of the comical jackdaws, and I can only distantly hear seagulls… I’ll have to check out what species we have here and share that another time!

And I just have to add…


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