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
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
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
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.