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Dust Baths - Really?

Published July 08, 2011
Tags: General Observations, house wren, dust baths, mites, parasites

A few nights ago, I was intrigued watching one of our House Wrens flop around in a pile of dirt near the edge of our property.  Its mate was perched in a tree a few feet away, seemingly keeping watch.  This other little guy, though, seemed to be having a seizure or something as it wiggled around and around, kicking up a little mini dust storm. I got curiouser and curiouser - grabbed a few shots of this bizarre incident (poorly focused - sorry!) - and determined to look this up on the Internet later on.

Amazingly, I found several articles that cites this strange behavior.  First, it's called dust bathing and, secondly, it actually serves a purpose.  You see, our little feathered friends can be plagued by mites or other parasites and the dust and dirt kicked up by the "bather" clogs the breathing tubes of the parasites and causes them to jump off.  Who knew?!

So next time you see a bird flopping around in a pile of dirt, he's not injured nor out of his mind; he's just taking care of business!
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A House Wren taking a dust bath
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Unfortunately, I focused on the wrong little "well" the bird created so he's a bit out of focus.
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Papa Northern Cardinal
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Juvenile Northern Cardinal - there's a lot of red coming through; must be a male!
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Young Dark-eyed Junco
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A young Downy Woodpecker