In May 2008, Steven a.k.a. sharkspin photographed an Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) having a bath in a stream at Panti Forest Reserve, Johor, Malaysia (above). This reserve has been the Mecca of birders and photographers from Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore. The area is home to over 250 bird species, including several Sunda endemics and globally threatened species.
The Oriental Magpie Robin in this case was seen standing in the shallow water of the stream and vigorously ruffling its feathers (above). It also shook its wings and dipped its breast area into the water (below). Such actions allow droplets of water to get between the feathers and in the process, wash away dirt that collect on them.
After bathing, birds need to dry themselves immediately. Why? A wet bird may not be able to fly efficiently and thus can be quite helpless when confronted by a predator. Drying involves vigorously shaking itself to throw off the water droplets. The wings will also be shaken and flapped and the feathers fluffed.
After excess water droplets are got rid of, birds usually indulge in preening their feathers to keep them in perfect condition.
Bathing in streams and puddles is one of the ways birds maintain their feathers. Birds also bathe in the rain, on dew or water droplets collected on leaves after rain or from a hose during watering of the garden on a hot day. They also dust bathe.
All images by Steven a.k.a. sharkspin.
This post is a cooperative effort between www.naturepixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.