Weekend Birding: Sparrows Enjoy a Dust Bath
I have an abundance of baby House Sparrows in my yard this summer. They are very social and adaptable little birds who seem to enjoy being around humans. Especially if those human provide food, shelter, water and natural areas. To the little sparrows, my yard is a five star resort.
A few weeks ago I got to watch them take a dust bath, something I had heard about but never witnessed. I have several bird baths and often see them splashing around in the water, but I had never seen them bathing in the dust.
Near my potting table is an area where some dirt spilled and I swept it to the side but didn’t shovel it clean. Soon the sparrows were flapping their wings and rolling around in the fine dry soil stirring up dust. I wish I would have thought to grab the video camera. They were moving so fast it was difficult to capture a clear still shot.
One little guy was on his back rolling around like a dog. They all ended up completely covered in dust. When they ruffled their feathers I could see a poof of dust in the air. After they were done flapping around, they preened their feathers clean. They did this several times over the next few days.
So why would they do this? Especially since I have five bird baths in my yard. The theory is it’s to get rid of parasites on their skin and feathers that water can’t remove. The dust smothers the parasites, such as mites, and also absorbs excess oil. After preening, their feathers are clean. Sort of like using a dry shampoo. Apparently it worked. I haven’t seen them in the dirt again.
Next time your yard gets a little messy, you can always say you are leaving it that way for the birds.
Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.
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