A friend, Jim Block, who is a professional photographer in the Upper Valley (http://www.jimblockphoto.com/) , sent me his delightful photograph of a Wild Turkey actually taking a dust bath, and I am thrilled to be able to share it with you.
During the summer, some species of birds “bathe” in substances other than water. Often dust or sandy soil is the material of choice, but rotten wood and weed particles are also used. Ornithologists believe that this behavior is a means of ridding the bird of parasites such as lice and mites. After sitting down on the ground and scraping the sand all around it into a pile, the bird kicks its feet and beats its wings in the pile, getting the sand in amongst all of its feathers and next to its skin before standing up and shaking it all out. Usually some feathers come out as well, and if you’re familiar with different birds’ feathers, it’s often possible to determine what species of bird has taken a bath. The pictured dust bath is sprinkled with Ruffed Grouse feathers and is located in the midst of many ant hills, which is typical of this species. Another favorite location where Ruffed Grouse often choose to bathe is the entrance of an old mammal burrow.