A look at birds that take an earthy route to dealing with parasites

A look at birds that take an earthy route to dealing with parasites

Mannequins for sand-bathing — bee eaters could stroll away with that title with no a contest, the place humans handle the adjudication.

A vast majority of us, especially these who let birdwatching occur to them and rarely stir much from their lodgings and request out birds, are susceptible to creating that judgement.

The bee eater — and in our patches, the environmentally friendly bee-eater — is only a more noticeable symbol of a conduct that operates in lots of other species.

Just lately, on the earthern passage top to Adyar estuary, with the boundary of the Theosophical Modern society rearing up on a person facet in a tall wall, an Eurasian hoopoe seemed to make this issue, instantly pausing from an afternoon feeding binge.

Get in touch with it what you will, a coincidence or a scenario of one particular-upmanship, the hoopoe stopped tapping the floor for insects, and engaged in a sand-bathing ritual, the emphasize currently being that a green bee-eater had done a wriggle in the sands, only a handful of ft away and a couple of seconds before.

Away from the anthropomorphic lens that draws poetic but senseless inference of a single-upmanship from a common useful fowl conduct, it could be enlightening and fascinating to ask and examine the issue: Why do birds have sand-baths? And probably one more far too: Why do some have sand baths, even though other people don’t?

Ornithologist V Santharam observes: “Preen glands are essentially for oiling feathers. Mud baths are for dealing with parasites. Preen glands may to some extent assist offer with ectoparasites . But these birds that consider mud baths do it much more for getting rid of ectoparasites.”

On the other concern, he factors out that just one notices a superior quantity of hole-nesting species partaking in this cleaning ritual.

Santharam thinks becoming hole-nesting birds might have a thing to do with this behaviour, quite possibly for the reason that the their ectoparasite load could be bigger. The truth that hoopoes, the hornbills and bee-eaters are inveterate sand-bathers provides robust scaffolding for this believed.

On why a superior amount of birds do not watch sand as a implies to rid on their own of absolutely free-loaders, there certainly are unable to be an response compact more than enough to packed into one sentence, small and clever. Santharam notes that in some fowl species, there could be other behaviours that could sufficiently compensate for the absence of this conduct. “In birds species that form social flocks and allopreen — the yellow-billed babbler staying a classic instance — the existence of the social team will take treatment of the ectoparasites.”

He also remarks how “anting” is for some fowl species a way to check out to be totally free of ectoparasites. By crushing sure sorts of ants picked up with their bills and rubbing the formic acid produced in this manner towards their bodies, these birds feel to make brief get the job done of ectoparasites.

(Discipline Notes is a weekly column about the resident and migratory birds of Chennai)