Ant follower

Ant followers are birds that feed by following swarms of army ants and take prey flushed by those ants.[1] The best-known ant-followers are 18 species of antbird in the family Thamnophilidae, but other families of birds may follow ants including thrushes, chats, ant-tanagers, cuckoos, and woodcreepers.

Ant followers may be obligate, meaning that they derive most of their diet by following ant swarms, or non-obligate, meaning they derive only some of their diet from this behaviour. Some species may feed extensively at ant swarms yet may not be obligate ant followers, being able to and regularly feeding away from the swarms as well.

Many species of tropical ants form large raiding swarms, but the swarms are often nocturnal or raid underground. While birds visit these swarms when they occur, the species most commonly attended by birds is the Neotropical species Eciton burchellii,[1] which is both diurnal and surface-raiding.

It was once thought that attending birds were actually eating the ants, but numerous studies in various parts of E. burchellii's range has shown that the ants act as beaters, flushing insects, other arthropods and small vertebrates into the waiting flocks of "ant followers". Because E. burchellii is the only regular diurnal army ant specialised and regular ant-followers mostly occur in its Neotropical range, but Afrotropical birds do follow driver ants in the genus Dorylus.[2]

It was once suggested that the relationship between the obligate and regular ant-followers and the army ants, particularly Eciton burchellii, was mutualistic, with the ants benefiting by having the birds chase prey back down towards them. However experiments where ant followers were excluded have shown that the foraging success of the army ants was 30% lower when the birds were present, suggesting that the birds' relationship was in fact parasitic.[3] This has resulted in a number of behaviours by the ants in order to reduce kleptoparasitism, including hiding of secured prey in the leaf litter and caching of food on trails. It has been suggested that the depressive effect of this parasitism slows the development of E. burchellii swarms and in turn benefits other ant species which are preyed upon by army ants.

Despite the easier availability of prey, ant followers face an element of risk, as these small birds can be killed by four stings from fire ants.[4]

Gymnopithys-leucaspis-001 edit2
The bicoloured antbird is an obligate ant-follower.

References

  1. ^ a b Willis, E.; Oniki, Y. (1978). "Birds and Army Ants". Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 9: 243–263. doi:10.1146/annurev.es.09.110178.001331. JSTOR 2096750.
  2. ^ Peters, Marcell K.; Likare, Smith; Kraemer, Manfred (2008). "Effects of Habitat Fragmentation and Degradation on Flocks of African Ant-Following Birds". Ecological Applications. 18 (4): 847–58. doi:10.1890/07-1295.1. PMID 18536247.
  3. ^ Wrege, P.H.; Wikelski, M.; Mandel, J.T.; Rassweiler, T.; Couzin, I.D. (2005). "Antbirds parasitize foraging army ants". Ecology. 86 (3): 555–559. doi:10.1890/04-1133.
  4. ^ Ant Army Invasion! – Wild South America – BBC. YouTube (2009-02-27). Retrieved on 2013-02-23.
Bare-eyed antbird

The bare-eyed antbird (Rhegmatorhina gymnops), occasionally known as the Santarem antbird, is a species of insectivorous passerine bird in the antbird family, Thamnophilidae. It is endemic to Brazil. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

The bare-eyed antbird was formally described by the American ornithologist Robert Ridgway in 1888 and given the binomial name Rhegmatorhina gymnops.This species is a specialist ant-follower that depends upon swarms of army ants to flush insects and other arthropods out of the leaf litter.

Black-faced antbird

The black-faced antbird (Myrmoborus myotherinus) is a species of bird, about 12–13 cm (5 inches) long, in the antbird family Thamnophilidae. It is endemic in a wide range across the Amazon basin. It feeds on insects and spiders and sometimes follows army ants to catch the insects disturbed by their march.

Black-spotted bare-eye

The black-spotted bare-eye (Phlegopsis nigromaculata) is a species of insectivoire passerine bird in the antbird family, Thamnophilidae. It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.The black-spotted bare-eye was described by the French naturalists Alcide d'Orbigny and Frédéric de Lafresnaye in 1837 and given the binomial name Myothera nigro-maculata. The specific epithet combines the Latin words niger for "black" and maculatus for "spotted".There are four subspecies:

P. n. nigromaculata (d'Orbigny & Lafresnaye, 1837) – southeast Colombia, east Ecuador, east Peru, north Bolivia and southwest Amazonian Brazil

P. n. bowmani Ridgway, 1888 – south central Amazonian Brazil and central Bolivia

P. n. confinis Zimmer, JT, 1932 – east central Amazonian Brazil

P. n. paraensis Hellmayr, 1904 – northeast Brazil south of the AmazonThe black-spotted bare-eye is 16.5–17.5 cm (6.5–6.9 in) in length and weighs 42–51 g (1.5–1.8 oz). The sexes are alike.This species is a specialist ant-follower that relies upon swarms of army ants to flush insects and other arthropods out of the leaf litter.

Blue-lored antbird

The blue-lored antbird (Hafferia immaculata) is a species of antbird in the family Thamnophilidae. It is found at low levels in humid Andean forests in western and northern Colombia, western Venezuela. It formerly included the Zeledon's antbird as a subspecies. The blue-lored antbird feeds on insects, and regularly follows swarms of army ants in order to catch prey flushed by the swarms, but it is not an obligate ant-follower like some species of antbirds. The blue-lored antbird is strongly sexually dichromatic: the male has an entirely black plumage, while the female has a rufous-brown plumage and a black mask. Both sexes have a blue patch of skin around the eyes.

This species was previously included in the genus Myrmeciza. A molecular phylogenetic study published in 2013 found that Myrmeciza, as then defined, was polyphyletic. In the resulting rearrangement to create monophyletic genera the blue-lored antbird was moved to the newly erected genus Hafferia.

Chestnut-crested antbird

The chestnut-crested antbird (Rhegmatorhina cristata) is a species of bird in the family Thamnophilidae.

It is found in Brazil and Colombia.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

This species is a specialist ant-follower that relies on swarms of army ants to flush insects and other arthropods out of the leaf litter.The chestnut-crested antbird was described by the Austrian ornithologist August von Pelzeln in 1868 and given the binomial name Pithys cristata.

Dull-mantled antbird

The dull-mantled antbird (Sipia laemosticta) is a perching bird species in the antbird family (Thamnophilidae).

Hairy-crested antbird

The hairy-crested antbird (Rhegmatorhina melanosticta) is a species of bird in the family Thamnophilidae.

It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

The hairy-crested antbird is a specialist ant-follower that relies on swarms of army ants to flush insects and other arthropods out of the leaf litter.The hairy-crested antbird was described by the English ornithologists Philip Sclater and Osbert Salvin in 1880 and given the binomial name Pithys melanosticta. The present genus Rhegmatorhina was introduced by the American ornithologist Robert Ridgway in 1888.

Harlequin antbird

The harlequin antbird (Rhegmatorhina berlepschi) is a species of bird in the family Thamnophilidae.

It is endemic to Brazil.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

This species is a specialist ant-follower that depends on swarms of army ants to flush insects and other arthropods out of the leaf litter.

Pale-faced bare-eye

The pale-faced bare-eye (Phlegopsis borbae), sometimes known as the pale-faced antbird, is a species of bird in the family Thamnophilidae. It has often been placed in the monotypic genus Skutchia, but based on genetic evidence this genus is now merged with Phlegopsis, and this treatment was adopted by the SACC in 2010. It is endemic to humid forest in the south-central Amazon in Brazil. It is an obligate ant-follower only rarely seen away from ant swarms.

Reddish-winged bare-eye

The reddish-winged bare-eye (Phlegopsis erythroptera) is a species of insectivorous passerine bird in the antbird family, Thamnophilidae.

It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

The reddish-winged bare-eye was described by the English bird artist and ornithologist John Gould in 1855 and given the binomial name Formicarius erythroptera.This species is a specialist ant-follower that relies upon swarms of army ants to flush insects and other arthropods out of the leaf litter.

White-breasted antbird

The white-breasted antbird (Rhegmatorhina hoffmannsi) is a species of bird in the family Thamnophilidae.

It is endemic to Brazil.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

This species is a specialist ant-follower that relies on swarms of army ants to flush insects and other arthropods out of the leaf litter.

Zeledon's antbird

Zeledon's antbird (Hafferia zeledoni) is a species of antbird in the family Thamnophilidae. It is found at low levels in humid forests from Nicaragua to Panama, and in the Chocó of western Colombia and western Ecuador. Zeledon's antbird feeds on insects, and regularly follows swarms of army ants in order to catch prey flushed by the swarms, but it is not an obligate ant-follower like some species of antbirds.

Zeledon's antbird was described by the American ornithologist Robert Ridgway in 1909 and given the binomial name Myrmeciza zeledoni. It was subsequently treated as a subspecies of the blue-lored antbird. A molecular phylogenetic study published in 2013 found that the genus Myrmeciza was polyphyletic. In the resulting rearrangement to create monophyletic genera Zeledon's antbird was moved to the newly erected genus Hafferia. The common name and Latin binomial commemorate the Costa Rican ornithologist José Cástulo Zeledón.There are two subspecies:

H. z. zeledoni (Ridgway, 1909) – south Nicaragua to west Panama

H. z. macrorhyncha (Robbins & Ridgely, 1993) – east Panama to west Ecuador

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