As thousands of army ants march through a rainforest in Panama looking for food, countless insects try to escape. Antbirds follow the ants, waiting for flying insects to leave their hiding spots so they can swoop down and catch them. About 300 species of animals, including 29 bird species, depend on army ants for their survival. It’s thought to be the largest association of animals tied to a single species in the world.
Birds on the March with Army Ants
Written by Conor Gearin
This is BirdNote.
[rainforest ambi, maybe Quiet Planet QP01 0038 Tropical forest morning.wav]
[fade in drumbeat]
In Panama, thousands of army ants on the march, looking for prey, are a fearsome sight.
As the ants pass through the leaf litter, they stir up countless grasshoppers, cockroaches, beetles, and even lizards that flee in terror. Flying insects may escape the ant infantry, but they’re no match for the aerial threat from this Ocellated Antbird.
[Ocellated Antbird song, ML 108872, 0:13-0:16]
Clinging to a thin plant stem above the fray, the blue-faced Ocellated Antbird waits for flying insects to leave their hiding spots, then swoops in to catch them.
[Ocellated Antbird calls, ML 28425, 0:14-0:17]
As many as 29 bird species have such a tight bond with the ants that they can’t survive without them. They have to find an army ant column to follow every day. And birds aren’t the only group of animals that need the ants. Scientists have estimated that about 300 species of animals survive only by sticking with army ants. From tiny mites clinging to the ants to butterflies that feed on antbird droppings, it’s thought to be the largest association of animals tied to a single species in the world.
[Spotted Antbird song, ML 200261861]
Rainforest fragmentation is a big threat to army ants and their followers, which need large expanses of forest to find enough food. Learn how you can help support conservation efforts in Panama and beyond at our website, BirdNote dot org.
I’m Ariana Remmel.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Production Manager: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Digital Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Ocellated Antbird ML 108872 recorded by L. Macaulay, Ocellated Antbird ML 28425 recorded by A. van den Berg, and Spotted Antbird ML 200261861 recorded by J. Holmes.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2022 BirdNote January 2022 Narrator: Ariana Remmel
ID# antbird-01-2022-01-19 antbird-01