Why do birds suddenly flail around in the dirt?

I was in Central Park with some friends (because I do have friends. I just wanted everyone to know that), and we observed many little birds twitching in the sand/dirt/whatever on the sidewalk. Why do birds do that? Are they just dumb or something?

It’s called dust bathing. Birds take periodic dust baths to help clean their feathers of parasites, like ticks and mites, which could otherwise make the bird get sick.

You’re asking that with a username like DuhCow? :smiley:

Our hedgehog used to do it, too. In its litter pan. Oh, well. He seemed to have a good time.

Degus need dustbaths to keep their fur nice.

I should say that they also need dust to keep their fur nice. I wasn’t trying to imply that hedgehogs and degus were the same thing. My point with all of this is, of course, to point out that there are a large number of animals that use dust and dirt to clean themselves.

And they don’t do it “suddenly” either. They take their time; sit there and make a conscious decision to start doing it. You make it sounds like they are so impulsive!

I took it as a joke on the syrupy old Carpenters song that started out, “Why do birds suddenly appear…” Close To You, or something.

Here’s an apology to the folks who are now trying :smack: to dislodge an aggressive ear worm.

Yeah, they are quite birdbrained, I hear. :slight_smile:


Yes! I answered a general question!

I’ve noticed that ashes are very attractive to birds for this purpose.

Like old fireplace ashes.

Perhaps the alkalinity kills the bugs?

No, it’s the dustiness. It gets into the bugs’ joints and binds up the motion. Then, they stand there, like the Tin Woodsman, calling out “oil can!” in their tiny pitiful bug voices.

My neighborhood birds do this in the bird bath. Strange, but 9 out of 10 just stop by for a drink. The bathing birds splash like little kids, and damn near empty it every time. I put up a sign that says ‘drinking only’, but they don’t listen. Bastards.

That’s why they’re called bird baths :stuck_out_tongue: