Jan 22 2011

To Bathe or Not To Bathe

Published by at 7:30 am under Bird Behavior


My heated birdbath is frozen today in 0oF weather, but when the sun came out last Sunday a small flock of starlings decided to take a bath. 

It was 20o with snow on the ground that day, but they didn’t care.  At one point up to six of them splashed simultaneously.  The crowd was so large some perched at the edge to wait their turn.

Soon it was evident that getting wet in cold weather had some disadvantages.  The sun went behind a cloud and those still wet found it hard to dry off.  It was taking longer than they’d planned.  

I went to another part of the house for a few minutes and when I next looked outside my window a red-tailed hawk was carrying a starling in his talons to a favorite dining perch.  One of those wet starlings was about to be lunch.

So I wonder if starlings ever ask themselves this question about winter baths:

“To bathe or not to bathe, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of dirty feathers;
Or to take a bath in a Sea of bubbles,
And by freezing end them: To die, to sleep
No more … ”

With a nod to Shakespeare, whose mention of starlings brought them to America.  (Click here for the real Hamlet soliloquy.)

(photo by Paul Brentnall at freedigitalphotos.net. Click on the photo to see the original)

One response so far

One Response to “To Bathe or Not To Bathe”

  1. Markon 23 Jan 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I have wondered about the effect of heated bird baths on the birds when the temperatures are significantly below freezing.

    Mark

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