Many birds, particularly songbirds, are known to engage in a behavior called “anting,” in which the birds pick up ants in their bills and then wipe or rub them on their feathers, often repeating the process with many ants at a time. This seemingly unusual behavior has been observed in more than 200 bird species, including cardinals, robins, crows, great horned owls and wild turkeys, according to BirdWatching.
Why birds engage in this behavior isn’t exactly understood, although researchers believe it may have to do with maintaining their feathers. It also may help control parasites and other organisms on their feathers, because the species of ants used for anting typically have high concentrations of formic acid, which can help kill mites and parasites, BirdWatching reports.
Anting is most common in late summer and early fall, when many birds are molting, so scientists believe it may have to do with soothing their irritated skin when their feathers are quickly being replaced, BirdWatching reports. And while ants are the most common choice for anting, other insects have been used as well, including beetles and millipedes.
Owls swallow some of their food whole