An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Ruffed Grouse Dust Bath

8-8-13 dust bath of ruffed grouse 048During 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.

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3 responses

  1. Cecelia Blair

    Bernd Heinrich wrote about how crows and ravens (both, or just crows?) seem to enjoy “anting” too–stirring up anthills and being bitten by ants. The formic acid, perhaps, gives them a thrill–pleasure of some kind.

    August 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    • Chaffee Monell

      It may be also that the formic acid serves to counter mites. Beekeepers also use formic acid to treat lice-infested hives, as it is more toxic to the mites than to the bees.

      November 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      • Excellent thought!

        November 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm

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