Purple-rumped Sunbird and its strange nesting material

posted in: Nesting | 0

On 23rd June 2918, Shyam Ghate of Mumbai, India wrote:

“I came across a female Purple-rumped Sunbird (Leptocoma zeylonica) constructing a nest 9th April 2018. The nesting was inside the forest resthouse at Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary in the Balasore district of Odisha, India.

“While most of her trips to the nest were with spider web strands, in one trip she returned with (what appeared to me) the heads etc. of ants. She had a number of them in her beak, which she neatly deposited on the top of the nest (above, below). Since I did not want to disturb the bird, I did not do any close inspection of the objects. So my inferences are based on the photographs only. What could be the objects? What is the purpose of what she was doing?” wrote Shyam.

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS of Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia replied:

“A fascinating observation. Thinking through the behaviour with you and offering some possibilities:

1. All of us are familiar with the ‘anting’ of birds – it has been proposed that using the chemicals from ants controls mites, fungi or bacteria on the bird feathers. Could this be variation of that and the ants being used to keep the nesting environment clear of mites, fungi or bacteria?

2. Another possibility is that having the dead ants there serves to deter other ants from coming and bothers the chicks?.

“Having said that I have observed that the Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis malacensis) in my region will only nest in trees with biting red Kerengga ants (Oecophylla smaragdina). And the ants walk all over the nest with no interference.”

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