Avian Expert Articles

Birds & Bathing

blue macaw bathingFor birds and humans alike, bathing is one of the essential elements of day-to-day living. And like us, some birds like it, and some tolerate it—some even hate it. If you peruse YouTube, you’ll find more than a few videos of owners and their exotic birds bathing in a variety of ways. Some take showers; some use the running water from faucets in sinks. Still other smaller birds, like parakeets, can find use from clean water bowls.

In the wild, exotic birds typically experience a lot of rain in which to bathe. In a home environment, alternative methods have to be employed to keep companion birds as clean as if they were in the wild getting a natural bath.

There are numerous online articles and videos addressing how to properly tailor the bathing procedures that works for household bird(s). Some may suggest improper methods of bathing, so again, research heavily before adopting any of them. A warm inside ambient temperature is ideal for birds when giving baths. You can use bowls, spray bottles (with lukewarm water), or even your own shower space.

Kim Hannah, owner and caretaker of Exotic Avian Sanctuary of Tennessee (EAST), says that her exotic birds have several ways of keeping clean. Tori, her Moluccan Cockatoo, prefers the use of a fountain. Wizard, her Macaw, enjoys a spray bottle bath. Kim has a Red-Fronted Macaw who likes to bathe in moistened plants, using the moisture to clean her body and feathers. A close friend of Kim has photographed a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk using her outdoor fountain to bathe. You can view her collection of beautiful bird photos at EAST’s Facebook page.

Across the world and within many types of climate, smaller wild birds like cardinals, sparrows, robins, blackbirds, crows, hawks, finches, and others of similar habitats, bathing is an important part of their daily routines. If you’re one who places a birdbath in the yard to accent your landscape, and to provide a nice place for birds to clean themselves, then you’ll often see robust activity at these on days where there is no rain. A few tips should accompany these placements.

First, always be sure to keep the water inside the basin fresh and clean. It’s important given the high probability of transmittable diseases amongst birds. In common gathering places, such as these bird baths, sick birds also perform the same grooming habits as their well counterparts. In so doing, they potentially leave behind the germs that plague birds, germs like pink eye (conjunctivitis), avian pox, and other virulent activity. The basin should be flushed out daily to dispose of dirtied water. Additionally, and, of benefit to you, insect infestations can occur in standing stagnant water. Dirty water can even impact the integrity of the construction of a basin.

You should try to place any baths in shady regions to avoid beginning growths of algae. That’s why daily power flushes are important for the birds in your area. It’s good practice for their well-being.  At least once a week, the bird bath bowl should be scrubbed with a mix of bleach and water (1 part bleach to nine parts water). This will return the basin to a pristine state of cleanliness free from bacterial invaders. Remember, there are also likely other animals in your general area that might find the accessibility of water to be welcome. They can bring a share of unwanted bacteria to a place intended for birds only. The continual cleanliness of these baths will not only bring a pleasing visual aesthetic to your yard, but will go a long, long way in providing a safe place for your neighborhood birds to bathe.

It’s good to know that outdoor basins need only be one to 3 inches in depth. Deeper bowls can be difficult for many birds to properly bathe in.  Alternatively, you could even employ other methods like waterfalls, misters, drippers and fountains, and other sources of moving water. Nevertheless, you should always investigate and keep clean any area with water (standing and moving), and bird gatherings (feeders and baths). If you’re diligent, you can even provide water during wintry conditions by keeping melted water available for wild birds (with electrically-heated, thermostat-controlled bird baths that keeps water from freezing).

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