The topic of birds and anting crops up periodically on Birding-aus, most recently in the last few weeks. Not the same as earlier discussions, but related, is the relationship between ants and birds in the nest.
The following paper has just been published in the online journal, Scientific Reports, which looks at the value of birds’ nests for ants, based on a study of songbirds in Poland. The authors conclude that ants establish colonies in birds’ nests because the body heat of the nesting bird generates a thermal environment that favours optimal development of ant larvae. The host birds benefit from this relationship by relying on the ants to remove external parasites and other debris from the nest and feathers. In the study, the authors discounted the overall nest structure as the main attraction to ants and showed quite convincingly that the heat generated in the nest is a major benefit.
Thermal ecosystem engineering by songbirds promotes a symbiotic relationship with ants