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White-rumped Shama taking a bath

on 3rd February 2010

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.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

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