Forget Bird Baths, These Crows Go For Ant Baths

Crows are both frightening and intriguing birds that have been a part of numerous myths from all over the world. They have a startling level of intelligence, they eat carrion, and, as it turns out, they like to bathe in ants.


The act of bathing in ants is called anting, and it consists of spreading ants all over the crow’s body. It is a practice that has been long documented. However, it is still not understood completely.

One theory states that the activity is related to cleanliness. Ants secrete certain chemicals that ward off fungi and other insects. If you can smear these chemicals all over your body, or feathers, you can take advantage of a ton of biocides, insecticides, miticides and fungicides. A different theory suggests that the ants serve as a sort of aftershave for the crows, soothing their skins after they lose feathers through molting.

Some other theories regarding this behavior include the food preparation hypothesis, where the birds rub the ants against the feathers in order to remove any formic acid or anti-predator chemical so that the ants can be more easily digested. Crows may also engage in anting for the purpose of sensory self-stimulation. In other words, the ants’ movements generate sensations that are pleasurable to the crow.

Anting is not an exclusive behavior to crows either. There are over 200 bird species that are known to ant. Anting also has two forms: active and passive. In active anting, a bird will grab an ant in its beak and rub it all over its feathers. The activity can happen several times in a row, but the birds will rarely use the same ant for subsequent passes. Some birds will use substitutes during active anting if they cannot find any ants. For this, they have been known to use larvae, amphipods, grasshoppers and even snails.

Crows are more prone to engage in passive anting, where the bird will rub its tail and wings on a live antihill. This will attract ants onto the feathers, and the bird will rub its beak through the feathers to make sure that the ants get close to the skin. The bird will also shake its head vigorously to prevent the ants from reaching the eyes or the beak.

While birds may find much use for ants, humans do not. If there are ants in our homes, at best they are a nuisance, at worst they can cause a lot of damage. Contact us today if you have an ant infestation and we will help you get it under control.