Green imperial pigeons exposing armpits in the rain

posted in: bird, green imperial pigeon, Hygiene | 0

On 20 Aug 2022, I saw from my balcony, 6 Green Imperial pigeons (Ducula aenea) perching on the Footstool palm (Saribus rotundifolius) in the heavy rain (Photo 1). All of them were simply soaking themselves in the heavy rain instead of taking cover.

What caught my attention was the way a few of them were exposing their underwing, especially the pectoral area or `armpit’ towards the heavy shower (Photos 2 – 4). They were leaning their body sideways on a leaf stalk, stretching and flipping one of their wings backwards, exposing their `armpits’ upwards for several minutes each time. They were completely drenched but refused to hide under any shelter.

They probably behave this way so that rain water will help to clean them by running down the exposed skin, and in this case, the skin covering the pectoral muscles. Photo 5 showed a bird exposing the skin below its scapular feathers, in the heavy rain.

I came across a video by Brienne Momberger, Aviculturist at National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland, USA dated 5 Feb 2022, where  a White Imperial pigeon (Ducula bicolor) was behaving in similar fashion.

Two years ago, in January 2000, I saw an Imperial Green pigeon on the same tree doing a similar pose of exposing the underwing but this time it was drying itself by facing towards the sunlight, after the rain (Photo 6).

It was interesting to observe this species behaving in this unusual manner of exposing their underwing to allow the rain water to clean them or for drying their feathers.

Bird flight is primarily powered by the pectoralis muscles that move the humerus bone of the wing around the shoulder. The pectoralis muscles of most adult birds take up approximately 8–11% of the total body mass (George and Berger, 1966; Biewener, 2011)

From here, I could conclude that it is important for birds to maintain the pectoralis muscles in good condition as it is one of the primary organs for flight and is used all the time.

Photo 1: 6 Green Imperial pigeons (Ducula aenea) perching on the Footstool palm (Saribus rotundifolius) in the heavy rain.
Photo 2: One of the pigeons leaning its body sideways on a leaf stalk.
Photo 3: A pigeon stretching and flipping its wings.
Photo 4: This pigeon is exposing its `armpits’ upwards, for several minutes each time.
Photo 5: A bird exposing the skin below its scapular feathers, in the heavy rain.
Photo 6: Imperial Green pigeon on the same tree doing a similar pose of exposing the underwing but this time it was drying itself by facing towards the sunlight, after the rain. January 2000.

 

Thong Chow Ngian

20 August 2022.

 

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