To keep their feathers in peak condition, birds spend many hours each day preening them. They pass their bills over the stiff contour feathers to realign the barbs, some spread water-proofing oil on their feathers (the oil comes from a gland at the base of the tail). But did you know that many birds like to bathe as part of their preening ritual? Some even “bathe” in dirt! This helps keep insect pests, and may serve to fluff the down feathers.
Watch how birds splash around in puddles! You can provide shallow water (which many birds prefer) by making a bird bath. One of the simplest to make is an up-turned garbage can lid filled with a layer of pebbles to give the birds firm footing. The pebbles also weight the lid so that it won’t blow away. Birds like a place to perch after bathing, so place the lid near some brush or under a tree. Put it on the ground (in an open area so the birds feel safe) or on a pedestal. A tree stump will do, or rig the lid by tying a rock to the handle and placing it on top of a length of clay drainage pipe. Check the level of water occasionally, and watch the birds have a blast!
[Image: Courtesy of Flickr user artifacsimiles]