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Why do birds bath? Questions my grandchildren ask me

Updated on May 29, 2012
Dark-capped Bulbul
Dark-capped Bulbul | Source
Spotted-backed Weavers, sharing a bath
Spotted-backed Weavers, sharing a bath | Source
Weavers -Nahoon Nature Reserve-East London
Weavers -Nahoon Nature Reserve-East London | Source
Gulls in Biloxi
Gulls in Biloxi | Source
Red-billed Oxpeckers Sand Bathing in Kruger Game Reserve
Red-billed Oxpeckers Sand Bathing in Kruger Game Reserve | Source

Questions my Grandchildren asked me: Number one - Why do birds bath?

As we observe behavior in nature some interesting questions come up, often asked by children because they do have enquiring minds. So here comes the first of the questions my grandchildren have asked me. You may also want to know the answer. In fact I wanted to know it too and so I looked it up.

We call a water holding receptacle in our garden a “bird bath”; why not a “bird fountain” or “bird drinking place"? If you watch you will realize that birds do come and drink water from these places because they, like all of us, need a regular intake of fluids. Often however, as the photos show, they actually come to bath. This can present some interesting opportunities to just watch bird behaviour and also take some interesting photos. As the urban landscape has grown, drinking areas for birds and also places for them to bath have decreased, and so many thoughtful home owners provide bird baths.

Many birds bathe in water on a regular basis because this helps them to keep their feathers in good condition. After bathing some birds protect their feathers using special waterproof oil that comes out of a gland under their tail. In dry area birds will bathe in sand in order to remove lice and other organisms that gather in their feathers. This also helps to remove old feathers so that new ones can grow. Some birds that do not have oil glands, produce soft feathers that produce a fine talc substance which also protects their other feathers. Parrots and Hawks are two of the kinds of birds that do this.

The world of nature is full of interesting questions. I hope you found this one interesting. If so we may look at some more!


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    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      6 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Yes the kids do keep us on our toes!

    • mwilliams66 profile image


      6 years ago from Left Coast, USA

      Really fun and interesting hub. The questions my children asked me when they were small sure did keep me on my toes. There's nothing quite like the wonderment of a child.

    • Linda Compton profile image

      Linda Compton 

      6 years ago from The Land of Enchantment

      Hi Johan,

      Yes, indeed...what marvelous questions our wee ones present to us! Great hub, wonderful photos.

      Thank you, and a big thumbs up!!! Cheers, Linda

    • Gill Harris profile image

      Gill Harris 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Very interesting hub. look forward to more! Voted up and all.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very well done, but there is another thing that some birds also do:

      Birds preen their feathers and like to take dust baths or baths in shallow pools of water—many birds also engage in something called anting, where they apply insects, usually ants, or other substances to their feathers and bodies. Strictly, the term anting refers to the use of ants in this activity; however, for lack of another term, the use of other things in a similar manner is often also referred to as anting.

      Hundreds of different species of birds have been observed treating their feathers in this unusual way. Songbirds pick up ants and apply them energetically to feathers; tropical mynas use millipedes similarly; rooks stand with their wings spread over rising smoke, crows lie down on ant hills, and poisonous birds may acquire a toxic coating on feathers by rubbing them with poisonous beetles.

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      6 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks Seeker7, I am glad you also love watching nature!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Very interesting hub and kids are guaranteed to keep us all on our toes. I have sat for nearly an hour one time just watching the birds bathing - and squabbling - over the bird bath! It's very addictive just watching what they get up to. Also, when out with the dogs, I've seen the birds 'bathing' in dust/dirt when it was very dry and no puddles or streams were near by. It was fascinatng to watch them and apparently the dust/dirt gets rid of parasites and helps to keep them clean.

      A thouroughly enjoyable hub + voted up! + Loved the photos!!


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