Such observations suggest that
spider webbing could conceivably entangle a dead nestling on a
female’s foot or leg. But suggestion is not fact.
With neither photograph nor
specimen to examine, we cannot
absolutely dismiss alternatives
such as genetic defect or disfigurement from an injury or parasite.
Q: We have noticed common grackles picking mothballs
from the flowerbeds and rubbing
themselves with them. We looked
on the Web and did find an article
on “anting” but nothing on this
behavior. They pick up the mothballs in their bills and rub themselves from tip of tails up under
wings and then let them roll down
their backs. Is this a behavior you
have seen before? Pat and RogeR
SPeiSeR, defiance, ohio
Common grackles have been
observed preening with crushed
ants, cigarette butts, and mothballs.
A: Birds using mothballs has become such a common
occurrence that it has spawned a
dreadful body of easily accessed
nonsense based on emotional opinions and very little knowledge.
MASLOWSKI WILDLIFE PRODUCTIONS
Early on, mothballs were all
made of naphthalene (pronounced
NAFF-thuh-leen), which was
discovered about 1819, named in
1821, and confirmed with a chemi-
cal structure in 1869. Whereas
people manufacture naphthalene
by distilling either coal tar or
petroleum, nature produces the
same chemical in certain flower-
ing plants, a few fungi, and some
insects. Ergo, naphthalene is a
naturally occurring chemical.