Watching a bird splish-splash in water is a common enough sight and something we are used to.
Have you ever watched a bird frantically flapping and rolling in the dust and dirt? It is what is referred to as dirt baths. But do birds take dirt baths? Why do birds roll in the dirt? Let’s find out!
Do birds take dirt baths?
Yes, birds do indeed take dust baths. They flap up a storm whenever they see a dirt patch. Usually, they dig the dirt with their feet to make a hollow. Next, they lower their breast to the ground and roll, rock, and sway until a hollow depression is created.
Then, they push their bellies into the dust and toss them over their backs and under their wings in the same manner as they take a water bath.
They repeat the wriggling and flapping motion till the dust enters into their feathers and down to the skin.
Once they are thoroughly covered in the dust, they shake off the dust and preen it away till no dust and dirt remain on their feathers and skin.
Why do birds roll in the dirt and take dirt baths?
Like us, birds also take water baths. That makes sense to us. But dirt baths leave us full of curiosity.
While we still are not too clear about bird bathing, studies indicate that dirt baths are a vital part of any bird’s preening and plumage maintenance. Via it, they keep their feathers in top condition.
We all know that feathers are any bird’s lifeline. Not only do they provide the power of flight to them, but they also help insulate and waterproof them.
Generally, birds replace their feathers once or twice a year. At other times, they must be kept in top condition.
The sun, gradual wear and tear, bacteria, feather-munching mites, ectoparasites like luce, fleas, ticks, etc., and dry skin makes the feathers frayed and dull.
They look like they have come out of a ringer. It reduces moisture and oil from the feathers. The ectoparasites might even suck the blood of the birds.
Dust bathing helps in all such situations. Studies indicate strongly that bird bathing can absorb excess moisture and oil that makes their feathers greasy and matted.
It also helps eliminate all the ectoparasites and align the feather barbs. This improves their flight performance and enables more efficient insulation.
Birds also prefer dust bathing to soothe the itchy skin that is a natural outcome of molting.
How often should birds bathe?
Almost all birds dust bathe though their frequency varies from species to species. Typically, their frequency is related to weather and availability. It also differs from bird to birds.
For instance, sparrows are famous for indulging in maximum dust baths of up to five to six baths per day.
Other regular dust bathers are game birds like California quail, wild turkeys, helmeted guineafowl, etc., larks, thrashers, wrens; raptors like kestrels, birds of arid regions, ostriches, emus, etc. Basically, every bird takes a dust bath.
Helping birds take a dust bath
We now know how important a dust bath is to a bird. Hence, adding it to your garden or any bird-friendly landscape is an excellent way to encourage birds to visit the area and entertain us.
The best birdbath can always be a natural one like a dirt pile, sun-exposed flower bed, gravel driveway, etc. Else, you can also build a birdbath for them. Simply fill a dry and sunny area with an adequate quantity of fine-grained soil.
Be cautious that the soil does not have any clumps, plants, or rocks as they might hurt the birds. The area should be able to accommodate several birds at once.
It should also preferably be lined with some decorative rock walls so that the dust and dirt do not scatter outside when the birds are enjoying their dust bath.
You can also find ready-made cheap birdbaths for sale to install.
Related Read: Colors Of Birds | Interesting Things To Know
Dust baths are a critical preening and plumage regimen of any bird. It is also a fascinating activity to watch. Helping the birds dust bath is an excellent way to help them meet their unique needs in keeping themselves healthy and well-groomed.