Photographer Tony Austin was on the tail-end of a 3-hour nature stroll not too long ago when a homicide of crows landed close by. When one of many crows began “performing surprisingly,” Austin started photographing it.
“It could type of flap its wings on the bottom after which hop into the air and disappear into the foliage on the facet of the gravel highway, after which hop again onto the gravel,” Austin tells NPR. “And I couldn’t perceive what it was doing.
“Solely the one was taking this dust bathtub, which I believed was fairly fascinating. The others have been strolling round it. They have been definitely fairly concerned about what was occurring, however they didn’t appear alarmed.”
When Austin reviewed the images on his giant laptop monitor at dwelling, he was shocked to find that the crow had ants crawling throughout its physique — it had been taking an ant bathtub. He then shared the picture on Fb, and a few fowl photographers helped put a reputation to the habits: anting.
Anting is a upkeep tactic birds use wherein they deliberately invite ants or different bugs onto their feathers and pores and skin. Oftentimes the fowl will lie down in a location lined with the bugs and do sure poses whereas the bugs are swarming its physique. That is known as passive anting, and that is what Austin noticed and photographed.
Whereas there are documented observations of anting habits, scientists nonetheless aren’t precisely certain why birds have interaction in it. Theories embody the birds eliminating parasites, grooming their feathers, making ready the bugs for consumption, taking pleasure within the sensations, and stimulating feather progress for molting.
Austin, a Victoria, British Columbia-based photographer who is comparatively new to nature and wildlife images, feels lucky to have witnessed and captured this comparatively uncommon sight.
“It’s sort of like a treasure hunt,” Austin tells CBC. “You all the time hope for a shot like that, nevertheless it doesn’t come round too typically.”
Picture credit: Images by Tony Austin and used with permission