Scratching among birds

posted in: Feathers-maintenance, Parrots | 4

Jason Cho photographed a Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) scratching itself outside his house recently.

Well, birds do get itchy. In parts of the body where it can reach with its bill, it is easy to relieve the itch. When the itch occurs on the head, the bird has to use its foot to scratch. And scratching is a common comfort behaviour, in addition to preening, stretching and what have you.

However, scratching does not always mean that the bird is itchy. Scratching also comes into play in feather maintenance, realigning the barbs of the feathers. Head scratching is also seen during moulting, as it helps to dislodge and remove old feathers.

There are two methods of scratching. Here, the parrot scratches by the direct method of raising its foot from under the wing. This is characteristic of terrestrial birds. Among arboreal birds as in sunbirds, the indirect method is used, where the leg is extended over the wing to reach the head.

Now, has anyone an image of an arboreal bird doing an indirect scratch?

Image by Jason Cho.

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.


4 Responses

  1. […] an earlier post, a Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) was shown scratching its head by the direct method […]

  2. […] done by raising its foot from under its wing, characteristic of terrestrial birds, as seen in the Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri), also in the Grey Nightjar (Caprimulgus indicus). Among aboreal birds, on […]

  3. […] into play. Note that the leg is raised from under the wing to reach the head, characteristic of terrestrial birds (left). Among aboreal birds, the leg is extended over the wing to reach the head, as seen in Barn […]

  4. […] water. After the fifth dip, the bird was preening and seen reaching its preen gland. It then did a scratch with its left leg extended over its left wing […]


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