Dust bathing Babblers

To: "Jim Davis" <>, "Contact Call BANQG" <>, "Birding-aus" <>, "QOSI Newsletter" <>
Subject: Dust bathing Babblers
From: "Jon Wren" <>
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003 23:38:30 +1000
Gooday all,
On the 4 January 2003 I visited Sneaky Hills Road an Atlas count site. approx 45km SE Bowen Qld. Time 1640-1652. I observed a group of Grey-crowned Babblers Pomatostomus temporalis on the ground numbering about 10. One Babbler found a site of interest and started to settle down and ruffle its feathers while gyrating left and right while extending the opposite wing. This activity immediately created interest for the other birds and they hopped over individually to join in the activity until a total of 7 birds got into communal dust bathing. All birds were shuffling and ruffling their feathers and bodies in the dust, some almost ended up on their backs as they tilted over with wings extended.
An individual bird left the group and went to an area about 2 metres away and started the activity again, it was immediately joined by the other birds and they displayed a similar communal dust bathing as described previously. It was certainly a case of follow the leader. After 7 mins the birds dispersed to surrounding vegetation but non were observed to be preening. The birds seemed to continue on with the search for food but in a more scattered group.
Simpson and Day F G to the Birds of Australia 5th edition page 359 states "Group activities are common in Babblers they travel, dust bathe, feed and preen as a family or association of families."
I checked out the area where the Babblers had their dust bath and there were no ants present at either site. The pattern left in the dust was quite interesting and certainly showed how compact the seven birds had got themselves. The area was about 35 cm across almost circular in shape but slightly larger than a dinner plate. Due to drought conditions the dust was very fine with very little gravel or rock and no vegetation.
So far this would be my best observation this year but it is early days.
Safety in numbers plus the fact that the Babblers had a few lookouts keeping an eye out for predators while their brothers and sisters enjoyed the dust bath seems to explain this behaviour. In Australian terms the Babblers on lookout had become Cockatoos.
Jon Wren
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