Did you know? Turkeys often bathe themselves in ants for protection

METRO ATLANTA — No, the purpose of this story is not to make you think about your Thanksgiving turkey before you eat it. But it is something to pass along as an interesting side note or conversation piece as we celebrate Thanksgiving give thought to what the notoriously finicky but tasty wild animals do to keep themselves healthy.

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Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources explained in a Facebook post that turkeys often bathe in ants. Yes, ants. As in the tiny insects that congregate in ant hills.

The DNR’s Wildlife Resource Division said wild turkeys partake in “anting” behavior as a form of pest control. The birds will lay down on ant hills, pressing or scraping their wings and tail into the hill, allowing the ants to crawl all over their bodies.

Here's a fun fact about turkeys you can use to change the subject this Thanksgiving: Turkeys bathe in ants. 🦃 🐜 Yep,...

Posted by Wildlife Resources Division - Georgia DNR on Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Once that happens, the turkey will flap its wings and move around to encourage the ants to bite them and release compounds that provide a natural form of pest control. Many of the turkeys will the groom themselves afterwards with the intent of crushing the ants and wiping the remains across their feathers. The crushed ants release formic acid which helps protect the birds.


The DNR said it’s believed the turkeys do this to help control parasites like feather mites and lice that bite, but added that it’s possible they just use the compounds to help soothe their skin.

According to the agency, the ants are not stinging or fire ants but ants nevertheless.

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