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Anting Blackbird

Anting Blackbird
Photo Information
Copyright: Ivan Kruys (Argus) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-08-05
Categories: Birds
Camera: Canon 400D, Canon EF 300 f4L + Canon 1.4 converter
Exposure: f/5.6, 1/400 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): sunbath [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2007-08-21 0:28
Viewed: 4794
Points: 54
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
This male Blackbird (Turdus merula) is behaving as if he is sun-bathing. This is not so!
The ground on this sunny afternoon in our garden is far too hot. You can see that his body feathers are upright to expose the skin and his beak open in order to lose heat and not to gain it.

What he in fact is trying to do is to invite ants to get rid of his feather mites!

The sandy soils in our garden provide a haven for ants of various species and this blackbird is behaving in a way common to many passerines around the world: he is asking any ants around to give him a spray of formic acid. This they do from the tips of their abdomen, which is normal ant defence behaviour.

Formic acid has been known to kill mites for some time and has been used for that purpose on poultry farms. It has the advantage that it easily breaks down in nature.

The blackbird's behaviour is known as 'anting'. I have seen a photo of this kind of behaviour on TN before: from S. Africa, I believe.

I don’t know whether he was treated or not but he stayed in this position for a few minutes until either it was too hot for him, or my presence 10 meters away disturbed him.

The Black bird is a common species in most of Europe, W. Asia and introduced into Australia and NZ.

This shot was taken with the camera hand-held and the image only slightly cropped. After size reduction the image was sharpened

Jamesp, valy67, red45, Bufo, pirate, haraprasan, go2stones, jmirah, PeterZ, nglen, eBirdy, rousettus, MMM, pablominto, gannu, SelenE, jmp, angybone has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To Nephrotome2: AntingArgus 4 09-01 13:09
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • Jamesp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
  • [2007-08-21 0:30]

Hi Ivan

Wonderfully observed shot - you have caught the moment wonderfully. The exposure, focus etc are excellent.


Hello Ivan !
You captured a very interesting behaviour here ! I knew that birds were doing this, but I never saw it and I really appreciate this picture. Details, composition and POV are excellent, as well as colorsand exposure. I also like the pose of the Blackbird and his fluffy feathers. Very well done !

  • Great 
  • red45 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2636 W: 74 N: 9091] (31094)
  • [2007-08-21 0:45]

Hi Ivan!

Very interesting behaviour of this small bird. I've never heard about anting, so thank you for this excellent and very interesting note. Picture is also great - pose, colours, light - everything is first class.

  • Great 
  • Bufo Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 404 W: 69 N: 951] (4247)
  • [2007-08-21 0:52]

Hi Ivan,
it's those moments one can see moreoften but in these moments you're always in the situation of being cameraless.
Apparently you had the luck (or skill) to have one and also made a fine capture of it. Blackbirds in my garden have turned into a savage plumming and appear to have the winter dress. This one still looks pretty 'summerish' to me.
Regards, Jacob

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2007-08-21 0:53]

Hi Ivan,
a great shot.
I've never seen a Blackbird do this however I have seen other birds.
Very sharp with great quality.
Perfect DOF to bring the whole Blackbird into focus while the BG has got all the OOF it needs.
Well done,

Hi Ivan
great capture of an interesting behaviour

Hola Ivan,
Interesante la exposición que haces sobre el comportamiento del mirlo para expulsar los ácaros, excelente imagen donde se aprecian los detalles que describes, Saludos
José Ramón

Hi Ivan,
A beautifully composed capture of this beautiful black bird. Very nice details and POV. The notes are excellent explaining the help the ants provide this bird. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Animals are frequently amazing in the things they know to do. Nice bright shot of him with excellent detail. Well done.


hello ivan,
nice capture of the anting black bird, lovely pose, well composed shot, nice pov, sharp image,
tfs & regards

Hi Ivan,
Great capture of the expression on it's face. Interesting bit of information. Fine POV and composition. Nicely done.


  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2007-08-21 6:03]

Hello Ivan,
Very interesting note. Beautiful photo with great sharpness and details. Excellent focus, POV, DOF and composition. Pose and colours are very good.

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2007-08-21 7:58]

Hi Ivan. I have seen the Black birds in the garden at home doing this. often wondered what they were up to. so now i know thanks. Good detail in the feathers and eye.with bight colours . The yellow around the eye shows up well. good notes to. well done TFS.

Bonjour Ivan
Excellente prise, un moment rare, excellente gestion de l'expopsition, bravo
Amicalement Robi

Hi Ivan,
Wondeful upload, the story, the explanation, the picture, perfect in details,.. TFS, Maarta

Hi Ivan
interesting pose of this black bird. very nice timing and composition. Great details and sharpness. BG, colors, frame very nice. nice photo. TFS
well done

  • Great 
  • Mana Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1772 W: 36 N: 5597] (18598)
  • [2007-08-21 12:25]

Hi Ivan,
Wonderful moment captured with sharp details and nice colours. Superb lighting and the exposure is great on the black plumage. Such an interesting behavioural pose. Excellent POV and very nicely composed. Kudos.

  • Great 
  • MMM Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1114 W: 0 N: 2546] (11425)
  • [2007-08-21 13:30]

Hi Ivan
Nice capture.Composition ,details and colors are excellent.Also very good POV and excellent note.
TFS Michel

  • Great 
  • Silke Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 729 W: 98 N: 1707] (5458)
  • [2007-08-21 13:40]

I have observed this behaviour in my own backyard more than once and wondered at it. superb notes - thank you!
Great capture with outstanding detail and superb composition -- superb work for a quick shot like this

  • Great 
  • demeve Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 586 W: 12 N: 1682] (6165)
  • [2007-08-21 23:00]

Hello Ivan,
Very beautiful bird, great POV and
well composed picture, great sharpness


Hello Ivan,
What an interesting behaviour!
But one has to know what is going on to really enjoy, and the great note takes care of our need in that matter...
Excellent capture with good details to show the action!
Pablo -

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2007-08-22 3:31]

Ivan Lovely shot and nice shot. The eyes are amazing and excellently sharp. Ganesh

  • Great 
  • SelenE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2249 W: 65 N: 4205] (13972)
  • [2007-08-23 0:35]

Hi Ivan,
What a nice pose you've captured :o) Focus, the low POV, sharpness, light and composition are very good. Good timing. TFS
Best wishes,

  • Great 
  • jmp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1659 W: 95 N: 2273] (8415)
  • [2007-08-24 14:39]

Hi Ivan,
Great photo and interesting note. A really clever association!
TFS, José M.

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2007-08-24 20:14]

Hello Ivan

A very interesting post.The shot is well focused and exposed.The details are sharp.Wonderful plumage ,you can see the feathers and follicles and such very well.i hope the bird managed to get some relief.TFS


what amazing behavior! I never knew birds did this. What a wonderful depiction of a fascinating behavior. Isn't studying these creatures as much fun as photographing them?

Wonderful shot...splendid black...perfect without loss of any detail.

What an amazing theory.

I've seen many birds doing that and even created a special TN theme for it. I thought it was sunbath.
Actually the sunbath theory was strange: why would they sunbath only when it's hot? If it's warming, why not do it in winter? If it's cooling why not go into the shade instead?

The anting theory is more attractive (never heard about it before). Still some questions remain. I've see a heron doing it on a roof (http://www.treknature.com/gallery/Europe/Netherlands/photo61555.htm). No way ants would climb all the way up. So still there must be something else.

Nature is so mysterious.

I'm puzzled now and will try to find more info about it. Do you know some scientific references yourself on the subject?

As for the pic:
Interesting, excellent, well composed and sharp.
The plants added in some PP work are disturbing, though.


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