“From early sightings and articles of the ubiquitous Lineated Barbet (Megalaima lineata) in ‘A Japy-Romano’s Avian Bath’ LINK to uncommon sightings of ‘Communal Baths by Golden Babblers’ LINK, there had been many more feather maintenances’ situations observed, as I took thereafter to roads less travelled; doing it solo to various regions in South East Asia, behind the Wallacea Line to Down Under regions to look and observe what birds did.
“From the many write-ups by other contributors, readers had enjoyed reading about feather maintenance by birds; not only the usage of sand-dust to bathe but also uncommon situations where acids of insects and tree saps used to remove ectoparasites.
“A recent National Geographic documentary that showed an exquisite blue, Grandala (Grandala coelicolor) bathed in the Himalayan snow was indeed a treat.
“There had also been situations where birds preened and groomed, energised and dry off in the providence of glorious sunshine.
“Let’s begin with ‘Down Under’ – Australia half a decade ago where a trio of Noisy Miners (Manorina melanocephala), having stirred up sand-dust to self-cleaned, slumped onto parkland grounds at Noosa and basked fearlessly under a depleted ozone layer of Queensland’s November sky.
‘Oh…what a good life this is’ said Miner 1 (below).
“At the other end of the same continent, Little Pied Cormorants (Phlacrocorax melanoleucos) wasted no opportunity at Hyde Park to bathe in the ponds, surrendered themselves with open wings to dry out in November warmth of penetrating sunshine as seen here (below).
“In the Indonesian archipelago, mixed flocks of Bulbuls-Pycnonotus brunneus, aurigaster and melanicterus johnsoni in February, took to enjoying a communal bath splashing in a running river that cuts through the Botanical Gardens at Bogor (below).
“Behind the Wallacea Line in late April, a shy Isabelline Bush-hen Amaurornis Isabelline had no qualms about sneaking out onto a quiet trail for a pre-dawn splash bath at a pot hole- left behind after an overnight rainfall (below).
“Forest streams are favourite places for birds to keep feather maintenance. A less common sighting of a White-chested Babbler (Trichastoma rostratum) made debut finishing off bath with a vigorous shake off and preening of its feathers in the humidity of tropical, wild Borneo. That was July (below).
“Do mixed flocks of birds bathe together…and save water? At the foot of a mountain stream, noisy Spectacled Laughingthrushs (Rhinocichla mitrata) alerted me to check them out. Size did matter when came to priority over Grey-headed Babblers (Stachyris poliocephala) to queue for a cool, quick dip in catchment area off Fraser’s Hill (Approx.1310m a.s.l.) on a mid-year afternoon (below).
“Smallish birds that flock together such as the Mountain Fulvettas (Alcippe peracensis) were no exceptions. They were observed at 1pm cooling off and splashing in a mountain, running stream (below).
“Tree hollows are good receptacles to collect rain water, turning them into miniature pools or traditional Japanese styled bathtubs for birds to feather maintenance.
“Here, a juvenile Orange-bellied Leafbird (Chloropsis hardwickii) found one 8metres above ground. The bird was chirping- singing away as it dipped and spun dry in and out of the ‘pool’ repeatedly (below).
“I stood frozen on the trail, bemused just listening and observing this little creature, enjoying the simplest things of life that nature provides until… the songster intuitively felt watched.
“‘Little Joy’ turned, went quiet and gave me that shy, embarrassing look that I exchanged with a grin before it flew off (below).
“Nearer home in Peninsular Malaysia, where resident Lineated Barbets roost (Megalaima lineata) and compete with Woodpeckers for nesting cavities amongst a mangrove forest reserve, came the highlight of my observation up close.
“A Lineated Barbet (Megalaima lineata) was observed taking several watery dips in a side tree stump hollow. The noon bather preened well before it flew away (below).
“In less than ten minutes, the favourite spot- frequented by Barbets, a male Common Flameback (Dinopium javanense) showed up at same ‘condominium pool’ to prospect an illicit swim (below).
“Checking that no one was looking, scrambled in for a quick dip in between cautious look outs (below).
“Perhaps, Woody’s view from above would be as endearing and breathtaking as from ‘THE SANDS’…a sampan (Malay word for a longish dinghy) looking infinity swimming pool, way up under the Singaporean sky……!
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund