Javan Mynas Anting With Millipedes

posted in: Feathers-maintenance | 6

“From Wikipedia, anting is a self-nointing behaviour during which birds rub insects, usually ants, on their feathers and skin. The bird may pick up the insects in their bill and rub them on the body, or the bird may lie in an area of high density of the insects and perform dust bathing-like movements. The insects secrete liquids containing chemicals such as formic acid, which can act as an insecticide, miticide, fungicide, or bactericide. Thus, anting is way of reducing feather-parasites such as mites, or controlling growth of fungi or bacteria.

“So far, documented in this website are a few species of birds that chose ants in their anting behavior – HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

“Attached are some images of a Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus) using a millipede for its anting. The first image shows this myna with its nictitating membranne closed and a millipede in its bill (top). The second image is a crop of the first image to zoom in for a closer look at the weaver ants on the ground in front of the bird (above). One ant could be seen on its body near its left leg.

“The myna was seen in a contorted position and rubbing the millipede on its body (above). It dropped the millipede a few times after quick rubs were applied to its feathers. The myna appeared hesitant to pick up the millipede (below) and stared at it for a while …

“…before picking it up to repeat the anting behavior (below). I suspect that the millipede was dropped deliberately. It could be due to the unpleasant taste of the millipede.

“While I did not notice while out in the field, there was another Javan Myna that was probably also anting with a millipede.

“The last image shows this myna with another millipede in its bill in the out of focus background (above). The myna in focus (holding an ant in its bill) was the one doing the anting described earlier. As for the fate of the millipede, it was not eaten. It was neglected on the ground after the myna was done.”

Kwong Wai Chong
21st July 2015

6 Responses

  1. daisy oneill

    Dear Kwong,

    Excellent observation and images to your write-up.



  2. Leong Tzi Ming

    Very rarely observed behaviour for such a common bird!
    Brilliant documentation, Wai Chong!

  3. Subaraj Rajathurai

    Well done Wai Chong! Excellent observation and record. Millipedes do have the right chemicals that would work and you are absolutely right about the possibility of bad taste as that is one of the millipede’s defensive mechanisms against being eaten.

  4. BESG

    The Javan Myna is a very common bird such that most people simply ignore it. But there is much to learn from it and this is just one aspect of its behaviour Wai Chong has just uncovered…

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