When birds visit your feeder, their brightly colored feathers always make them look so effortlessly sleek and stylish. In reality, it takes effort for birds to look this good. Several times a day, birds take time out to preen their feathers, so they stay in top condition for flight and insulating their bodies from the cold.
If you happen to see a bird in one of several daily grooming routines, you’ll notice him nibbling and scratching at his plumage, rubbing his head along his back, finished off with a vigorous shake to fluff out the feathers. Here’s a look at some of the things they’re getting done.
Living outdoors can make anyone feel grimy, so grooming helps birds remove dust, dirt, and parasites from those layers of feathers.
Did you know birds have a preen gland at the base of their tails? Also known as the uropygial gland, it produces an oily, waxy substance that birds use to methodically spread over and coat their feathers with their beaks and feet. This keeps their feathers flexible and water-resistant.
With seven types of feathers covering their bodies — wing, down, tail, contour, semiplume, filoplume, and bristle — everything must be neatly in order. As they preen, birds are pushing things back into place. This work can get super detailed, as they delicately “zip” the loosened barbules back together to make the shaft of the wing and tail feathers smooth and solid.
In the spring, male birds are fastidious about their feathers, so they look their best for prospective mates. Once birds pair up, you may find them nestled together, preening each other as a way to build connections. This is known as allopreening.
Filling your feeders is the time-honored way to get an up-close view of bird behavior from the comfort of your kitchen window. Lyric Fruit and Nut Mix offers a high-energy, high-quality mix of their favorite seeds, fruit, and nuts to draw a crowd.