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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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