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Images: Russ Thompson
Splish, Splash!
As you watched this busy young hummer, did you know that he was actually bathing? Hummingbirds bathe at least once a day, and more in hot dry weather.

They don't actually like baths. They'd rather shower themselves by flying through mist. Sometimes they bathe as they fly by brushing against or sliding on wet leaves. Or they sit with their feathers ruffled so rain can soak their skin. If you have a water source near your hummingbird feeder or garden, you just might see one throwing its head back to toss droplets on its back! (Try putting a small hole in the bottom of a bucket. Fill it with water, hang it above a leafy branch, and watch the fun.)

Why all the fuss? Bathing helps hummers keep their feathers in good condition for flying and insulating their bodies. It removes dust, dirt, and loose feathers, and moistens their skin.

A hummer will often use its bill and feet to "preen" during or after a bath. This helps to remove parasites and to clean and oil their feathers. Preening also helps them put in place the barbs that "zip" together so each feather has a smooth surface.