Bathing is important for birds since clean feathers are vital for efficient flying but also for maintaining good insulation to keep birds cooler in warm temperatures and warm in cold temperatures. And it certainly looks as though birds truly enjoy taking a bath.
I got to watch this little nuthatch (called a Pygmy Nuthatch) taking a vigorous bath as it in a shallow pool of water last week, shaking parts of it’s body in the water and splashed droplets of water into the air. In the photo above the little bird is now getting it’s feathers very wet, it’s wings drooping from being waterlogged.
Of course water is also used for drinking by most bird species. While important all year round, it is especially important during hot weather and especially during the droughts that have plagued large sections of the U.S. this summer to provide supplemental water for birds and other wildlife. Be sure to keep some water out for migrating birds that don’t have the energy or time to seek out water during their brief stop-overs to refuel and rest.
Soaking wet this bird flew up onto a branch to dry off. They do not fly as well with wet feathers so it is important to place bird baths near some shrubs or other low vegetation so they can get to a sheltered branch where they are less vulnerable to predators. Birds will preen each feather carefully during which they coat the feather with oil, from a gland near their tail that secretes oil for this purpose, before resuming foraging activities.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an excellent article on ‘Providing Water for Birds’ that good information on the best type of bird baths, setting them up to attract birds, how to keep them from freezing during very cold weather and the very important topic of how to maintain them in a manner that is healthy and safe for the birds.
I really like to watch birds when they bathe, how about you?