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Birding - A Bird Bath to Remember

Updated on September 28, 2011

What a Dirty Bird - How Birds Keep Themselves Clean With a Dirt Bath

Some animals lick themselves clean, like cats, bats and ants. Some scratch, bite and shake themselves to remove dirt, like members of the dog family. Some stretch out in the sun. Others bathe in water. Some birds allow ants to run through their feathers. There are a surprising number of creatures that take dirt baths, including rabbits, squirrels and birds.

There are many birds who bathe in the dust to clean themselves. Some of them include quail, robins, chickens, pheasants, house sparrows, turkeys and woodpeckers. The "dirty birds" find a sandy or dusty surface like a dried up mud puddle. If a depression in the earth is not readily available, they make one. Then the birds lean down and throw the dirt over their backs with their wings and shake vigorously. They fluff their feathers and the dirt or dust settles in their feathers and on their skin. It clogs the pores of the nasty parasites like lice and mites and other biting insects, and they fall off. It also soaks up excess oils and rids the birds of them.

After this cleansing bath ritual, the birds must preen themselves. They remove offending bugs that have refused to leave, repair damaged feathers and draw oil throughout their skin and feathers. Nice and shiny clean again until next time. A bird bath to remember!

It is quite a comical sight to watch birds and other animals in a dust bath. I watched a bunny do that very thing just a week ago. He ambled to a dirty spot at the foot of our gravel driveway where rainwater collects (when we get any). He plopped down and rolled back and forth on his back. After standing and shaking, he repeated the effort. Another go at it and he was done.

It is amazing the ways nature has provided ways for creatures to keep themselves clean. Look out for the "dirty birds" and other animals to see which way they choose!

Have you ever seen a bird take a "dirt bath?"

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  • Esmeowl12 profile image

    Cindy A. Johnson 5 years ago from Sevierville, TN

    Thanks, prism3X. I never tire of watching the birds.

  • prism3x profile image

    prism3x 5 years ago

    watching birds is such a treat! Thanks for sharing.

  • profile image

    Esmeowl12 6 years ago

    Thanks so much Seeker7! Birds are entertaining no matter what they do.

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi, fascinating hub and very informative. I have seen birds doing this but I didn't realise they were actually trying to bath. I love watching them from my window bathing in water, now I can enjoy them having a dirt bath as well, now that I know what they are doing. Voted up + awesome.

  • Esmeowl12 profile image

    Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

    Thank you, movie master! My bird bath stays pretty dirty, too!

  • Movie Master profile image

    Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

    Hi Esmeowl, I didn't realise birds liked a dust bath, that probably explains why they don't mind if the bird bath water has got really dirty!! interesting hub thank you and voted up.

  • Esmeowl12 profile image

    Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

    Wow, dirt farmer, I've never seen a horse do that. Thanks for reading, tebo and Jeanastra. It's so neat to see all the things in nature that we never really noticed before.

  • profile image

    Jeanastra 6 years ago

    I saw a sparrow doing this recently and I figured it was a cleansing ritual, but I couldn't make sense of it. Thanks for the information! Voted up!

  • tebo profile image

    tebo 6 years ago from New Zealand

    I have seen them do this but didn't realize what they were doing. I do have a water bird bath and even when the water is a bit dirty the birds still take to it. I feel guilty then that I haven't filled it with clean water for them. Interesting hub.

  • The Dirt Farmer profile image

    Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

    Horses too! If they can roll ALL the way over, they're really good ones.;)(Not sure if that applies to birds as well.) Loved the hub!

  • Esmeowl12 profile image

    Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

    Thanks for stopping by, Sinea Pies and J.S.Matthew! I love to watch the birds, whatever they are doing. I appreciate your comments.

  • J.S.Matthew profile image

    JS Matthew 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

    Wow, this was very interesting. I had no idea that some birds and animals clean themselves with dirt! At my house our gutters are clogged and so they are full with water. There are always birds bathing themselves and they make quite a raucous and splash down water on unsuspecting people! Great article! Voted Up and Useful.


  • Sinea Pies profile image

    Sinea Pies 6 years ago from Northeastern United States

    I didn't know what I was seeing but now I do...those dusty birds were taking a bath! Amazing.