Bathing birds

To: Penny Brockman <>, "" <>
Subject: Bathing birds
From: Kim Sterelny <>
Date: Sat, 13 Jun 2020 13:41:50 +0000
I am near Central Tilba, just south of Narooma. I too have a few pedestal birdbaths, and I get a good range of small to medium size birds using these (the largest are satin bowerbirds, king parrots, and bronze cuckoo doves; the smallest are weebills, and you can see how small they are as robins and fairywrens look gigantic nest to them). By far the most enthusiastic bathers though are the yellow robins, who look amazingly scruffy after a bath with their feathers all puffed up. 

But I have also hung a few 2-litre plastic yoghurt buckets from suitable small branches in a couple of trees (not too high, so they are easy to re-fill) and while these are by no means as pretty as the pedestal birdbaths (as my partner complains), they are very popular, especially with the small to small-medium birds that can track down to the buckets while never breaking cover. About the largest using these are crimson rosellas (who look too big, but manage), but they are used a lot by our local honeyeaters, especially Lewins, yellow-faced, and white naped; all of whom bath with much enthusiasm. 

Very pleasant and lazy birding, to sit on my verandah with my binoculars, in a nice comfy chair, watching the procession in and out. My best record was 10 species in 20 minutes while eating a late brekkie


Kim Sterelny, School of Philosophy, Research School of the Social Sciences, Australian National University, Acton, 0200, ACT, Australia


From: Birding-Aus <> on behalf of Penny Brockman <>
Sent: Saturday, 13 June 2020 11:25 PM
To: <>
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Bathing birds
In my back garden there are two 2 metre diametre pools and 3 pedestal
birdbaths.  The larger honeyeaters tend to use one of the pools that is
clear of overhanging vegetation, diving in either from a nearby tree or
from a model horse on one side. It's a quick pop in and back to a perch,
with loud claps of the bill on exiting each time.

When the pools were first established, there was no vegetation around
them, just a sandstone edging. There were a large number of green Satin
Bowerbirds in the garden then and they used to stand on the edge and
nearly overbalance trying to dip their bills in to drink. One day a Red
Wattlebird started doing the usual dive in and out and was watched with
great interest by the bowerbirds.  After a while the wattlebird flew off
to preen and one daring bowerbird copied it, jumping in from the edge
and out again very quickly.  Ever after that all the bowerbirds bathed
like this when using the pond. Not so much now as waterlilies and water
weeds interfer with bathing.

The pedestal birdbaths are used extensively by the smaller birds -
spinebills, thornbills, fairywrens, willies, grey fantails, small
honeyeaters, scrubwrens, occasionally yellow robins and leaden
flycatchers, and once a pink robin, but the satin bowerbirds take over
when they use these instead of the pond. They create a shower of water
and quickly reduce the level. They compete with the rosellas, noisy
friarbirds and red wattlebirds, and ownership of the water usually
depends on numbers, except if a magpie, butcherbird or crow arrives.
Figbirds always and many honeyeaters bathe in the foliage of gum trees
at the end of the garden when there's been rain or heavy mist.
Altogether it keeps one occupied during times like these when confined
to barracks.

On 13/06/2020 11:34 AM, Laurie Knight wrote:
> Like many other Australians, I have been working at home during the Covid Crisis.  I’ve found the best place to work is on a table on the back deck of my house, where I am out with the birdlife.  The best birds from the deck during that time were a couple of Glossy Blacks flying overhead in search of casuarinas.
> Most days I hear the characteristic plopping sounds of Noisy Miners making use of the swimming pool. They like to swoop down from either the pool fence or a nearby bottlebrush, briefly settle on the water (sometimes bobbing their back under water) before turning around on the water and flying back to their launching point.  After a feather shuffle or two they generally repeat the cycle another couple of times before flying off.
> Blue-faced Honeyeaters sometimes also join the party, though they are less confident in the water than the miners.  They have more off a skipping approach, just doing a belly skim and flying off in the same direction.
> The Pied Butcherbirds don’t use the pool.  They wait till it rains then get wet by plopping into the foliage of a lillipilly and enjoy the shower from the dripping leaves.
> The lorikeets, crows and pigeons have not shown an interest in bathing.
> What are other people’s observations of birds bathing in “deep” water [water too deep to stand in]?  Have people observed large birds [other than waterbirds] bathing or species with interesting bathing styles?
> Regards, Laurie.
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