The incessant crooning of the Zebra Doves (Geopelia striata) during the nesting period of June-July 2017 saw these birds preening vigorously on the branches of the trees (above) LINK.
Preening of one of a series of comfort activities that include bathing (in water, in dust ), sun bathing, stretching and anting. These activities are to maintain their feathers in good order.
Feather maintenance is crucial to the survival of birds. The wing feathers especially have to be kept in perfect conditions in case the bird needs to suddenly escape from an approaching predator.
Preening involves maintaining their feathers in top condition by grasping the base of the feathers and nibbling upwards along the shaft. This removes stale oil and dirt. It may also draw the feather through its bill to smoothen the barbs so as to lock them together. At the same time the feathers may be oiled, the source of the oil is the preen gland found at the bases of the tail feathers.
As the dove uses its bill to probe the belly, back, neck, underwings, etc., it turns and twists, fluffing the feathers.
The neck of the Zebra Dove, like that of most birds, is extremely flexible. This is not normally realised as the neck is folded in an s-shape and always covered with feathers. This long neck allows the head to turn around more than 180 degrees in either direction to preen behind the head (above).
The only area that is not accessible to the bill is the head (above). So the head needs to be scratched by using the leg.
Note that the way the dove scratches its head is by the direct method, typical of terrestrial species. Arboreal species scratch by the indirect method where the leg is extended over the wing to reach the head.
19th July 2017