White-rumped Shama taking a bath

posted in: Feathers-maintenance | 4

Adrian Lim a.k.a wmw998 located and photographed a male White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) on a hot and dry day in December 2009. This shama is a resident of forested areas and the small patch of water under a fallen log in a small forest opening provided a convenient spot for it to have a bath.

Before entering the water the bird looked around to ensure no predators were around. Obviously it failed to notice the photographer. It then entered the water, shook about to wet its feathers before emerging to perch on the fallen log. There, it got rid of excess droplets of water before preening himself.

Bathing in water or even sand is a ritual to maintain the feathers in top condition. After a bath the bird will preen itself by grasping the base of the feather, nibbling along the shaft towards the tip. This helps remove dirt, stale oil and possibly any parasites that may be attached to the vane. It may also use its bill to spread oil obtained from the preen or uropygial gland found on the rump immediately in front of the tai feathers. Although generally believed that oiling helps keep the feathers waterproof, it is now believed that the oil helps keep the feathers from turning brittle and thus breaking prematurely. Also, the oil may help control growth of undesirable fungi and encourage growth of favourable fungi that may chemically inhibit the presence of lice.

Image by Adrian Lim.

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

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