Feather care in birds

“Healthy feathers are a top priority for birds as this ensures their long term survival, and their ability to attract a mate for procreation.

“Bills are used to preen their feathers, as their forelimbs have been adapted to wings.

“Bills clean individual feathers, scratching with feet are also done, bathing in water or dusting. Dusting is when a bird wriggles in dust or sand, tosses fine particles over its wings and body, then rubs it into plumage and shakes it off again. This removes excess preen-oil from feathers, and keeps them grease free. Besides, this also helps to remove parasites such as lice and mites

“There are birds that regularly waterproof their feathers with oil from the preen-gland enabling them to spend long periods of time floating on the surface of the water. This again is done using the bill, which collects the oil from the special preen-gland just above the base of their tail and spreads the oil across the surface of their feathers.”

KC Tsang
11th May 2009

Image of the Lineated Barbet (Megalaima lineata) preening by KC Tsang.

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