“Like dirty humans, birds enjoy a regular bath. Baths may help a bird stay cool on a hot day, or flush parasites and debris from its plumage. In the forest, shallow pools that form close to larger water bodies such as reservoirs or streams seem to be favoured spots that draw various species for a daily dip.
“I spotted a black-backed kingfisher (Cyex erithacus erithacus) along a boardwalk trail recently and returned the next day with a couple of other birders to photograph it. While waiting for the kingfisher to turn up, we found that the surrounding area was surprisingly rich in bird life. There was a Banded Woodpecker (Picus miniaceus) that clung to a loose hanging twig for several minutes as if it were stunned. Greater racket-tailed drongos (Dicrurus paradisus) called noisily and made a regular ruckus as they hawked for prey.
“A nearby thicket of dense secondary undergrowth turned out to be a staging point for an evening bath by several small birds. The first to show up were 3 Olive-winged Bulbuls (Pycnonotus plumosus) that didn’t stay too long (top). Next were the babblers. At least 5 Short-tailed Babblers (Malacocincla malaccensis) (above) and 3 Striped Tit Babblers (Macronous gularis) came repeatedly to bob in a small pool of water that reached their underbelly (left top). They would hop in and out of the pool, fluffing their feathers and shaking their breast vigorously.
“Soft ‘tuk tuks’ in the vicinity were identified as a Siberian Blue Robin (Luscinia cyane) by Con Foley and Danny Lau. An adult male soon turned up, but they remained largely hidden until the babblers were done. He then spent a few minutes splashing about the pool (below). While doing so, the nictitating membrane that protects the eyes was evident (left bottom). A female was also sighted but she refused to expose herself in the open. The male robin would only go down to bathe when the babblers were away.
“It would seem that despite fairly heavy human traffic (joggers and casual walkers), the relatively sheltered position of the pool, which lies just by the thicket, away from the open vulnerability of the reservoir’s shore proper, makes it a suitable bathing spot for a mix of resident and migrant forest birds.”
5th February 2009
All images by Marcus Ng.