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August 11, 2012 / Leslie

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.

© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.


Leave a Comment
  1. Cipriano / Aug 11 2012 1:22 am

    These are such great pics. It’s clear that the sparrow in the second picture is clearly entering nirvana!
    I love birds.
    One is currently trapped in our warehouse at work. I feel so bad for the thing, it is a gorgeous bird, and somehow got in there and we can’t get it out, back into the wild. So every day this week I have set out a fresh big pan of water and some cut up cherries [which it loves] and seeds. But what is so amazing is that rather than DRINK the water, the bird tends to splash it around everywhere….. taking baths, I guess. It makes a real mess.


    • Leslie / Aug 11 2012 11:59 pm

      Poor thing, I hope it finds a way back out soon.


  2. Brona / Aug 11 2012 3:30 am

    You”ve done a lovely job of capturing the sparrows with your camera. As an Australian though with a major (imported) sparrow problem, it’s a little hard for to see them as cute and adorable instead of vermin! Thank you for helping to see another perspective – to change the lens with which I view the world, if you will 🙂


    • Leslie / Aug 12 2012 12:03 am

      House sparrows are a problem here in the US too. They are not native here either and compete with our native species for nesting cavities.


  3. Mazz / Aug 11 2012 3:32 am

    Oh my that’s adorable, it’s rolling around! I wish I had seen that, great snap of it!


  4. Dragonflydaydreams / Aug 11 2012 3:33 am

    In Australia, sparrows are a major problem to our local flora and fauna – they are considered vermin. Your post has shown me that if viewed in a natural habitat, they can be seen as cute and adorbale instead! You did a great job capturing them in action.


  5. Louise / Aug 11 2012 5:23 am

    Lovely bird photos as always Leslie. I’ve seen our magpies doing similar things- splayed out in the dirt, not rolling around though, not sure that they’re doing the same thing. It’s usually been in the spring, I’ll try and get photos of them this year.


  6. Melissa @ Melissa's Bookshelf / Aug 11 2012 5:43 am

    Great pictures! They are so sweet & adorable. I look forward to your weekend birding pictures every Saturday! 🙂


  7. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Aug 11 2012 6:15 am

    We have loads of little sparrows at the feeder as well. I never knew about the dust baths though –how interesting.


    • Leslie / Aug 12 2012 12:06 am

      It must have been a good spring for house sparrows. I have a lot of them too, more than usual.


  8. Mary / Aug 11 2012 6:31 am

    Love the look on the last bird’s face 🙂 Wonderful pics!


  9. Barbara The Healthy Nut / Aug 11 2012 6:44 am

    Don’t you just love sharing your yard with bird families! The photos are great!


  10. Paulita / Aug 11 2012 6:48 am

    I always look forward to your bird photos. I thought of you yesterday when I saw some little shore birds, wondering what kinds of birds they were. I thought you would know for sure. Here’s Mine


  11. BermudaOnion / Aug 11 2012 6:55 am

    It makes a lot of sense but I’d never heard of a dust bath!


  12. laurelrainsnow / Aug 11 2012 8:03 am

    Wow, I learn something new about birds every week when I come here…lol. Who knew that dust baths were part of their grooming? Thanks for sharing.



  13. lakesidemusing / Aug 11 2012 8:36 am

    I’m really enjoying your bird photos!


  14. gautami tripathy / Aug 11 2012 8:38 am

    Great pics! I have watched sparrows dust bathing with gay abandon!

    Here is my Saturday Snapshot post!


  15. storygal / Aug 11 2012 9:21 am

    I think I’d heard of a dust bath but didn’t know who’d want one. 😉 This makes sense though. Thanks for more great pics and education about our feathered friends.


  16. Kailana / Aug 11 2012 10:58 am

    You take wonderful pictures! I really enjoy your posts.


  17. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Aug 11 2012 11:53 am

    How cool that you got to watch the birds frolic in the dust! I can see why that would be hard to capture in a still shot.


  18. Wrighty / Aug 11 2012 12:37 pm

    Amazing!! I love your photos! I’ve never seen a dust bath before and didn’t know much about it either. That’s so clever, and how great that you got to see it! We have a lot of sparrows around here so I guess I’ll have to watch them closer. And keep my camera handy!


  19. Marie / Aug 11 2012 5:30 pm

    Very cool! When we lived in the city, we were overrun with house sparrows. I saw them on a number of occassions “bathing” in the neighbours sandbox. After that I filled an old leaky bird bath with fine sand for them to use. They used it a few times, but they still prefered the big sand box next door. Great job capturing them. I especially love the one little guy on his back. 😉


    • Leslie / Aug 12 2012 12:10 am

      I like the idea of putting out some sand for them. Now I’m wondering if any of the other birds do this also.


  20. Staci@LifeintheThumb / Aug 11 2012 6:12 pm

    I absolutely LOVED the second photo. You can almost see the bliss on his little face!! I’ve only witnessed a dust bath once and it was neat to watch these little guys have their fun!


  21. lmkazmierczak / Aug 11 2012 8:16 pm

    Enjoyed your blog…great bird photos♫♪


  22. irene / Aug 11 2012 8:18 pm

    What a ritural, mother nature is wonderful with her natural remedies. Wonderful shots, I shall remember to leave some dirt about. I have seen pigeons do this but no other birds.


  23. dyane / Aug 12 2012 9:51 am

    awesome! great shots….well done!


  24. Christine Harding / Aug 12 2012 2:18 pm

    I’ve seen birds dust bathing, but didn’t get a picture. Been away from a week, so I’m catching up. My Saturday Snapshot is at


  25. sagustocox / Aug 13 2012 11:33 am

    LOL one was rolling around like a dog…hilarious.


  26. Suko / Aug 13 2012 1:04 pm

    Wonderful photos, as usual, Leslie!


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