How is this robin using its habitat?
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Robins often splash and chirp as they bathe. Are they enjoying themselves? Only the robins know for sure!

Photo:
Tom Grey

Did You Notice?
Robins need water to drink and to stay clean. It looks like this robin is bathing. Robins bathe as often as possible. They'll use any kind of water they can find: ponds, mud puddles, melted snow, bird baths, and lawn sprinklers. Sometimes many robins will line up to wait for a bath!

See the robin's head feathers sticking up. A robin can make some areas of feathers rise up to allow water to reach their skin.


Lots of splashing is part of the program! Robins have hollow bones, so the are too light to submerge themselves. Instead, they bathe in shallow water and splash it up to wet their backs and heads.

Why do robins bathe so much?
  • A robin's feathers have crevices where dirt can get stuck. So it uses its beak to "preen," pecking off dirt and "zipping" the feathers back together. It does this by applying oil from a small preen gland near its tail. The oil keep the bird's feathers soft and pliable. But too much oil makes the feathers clump, so the bird must wash them off.

  • If the feathers got sopping wet, the robin would have trouble flying. So it takes many short baths rather than one long soak.

  • Bathing helps keep skin parasites off robins. (The parasites are tiny animals that live on and harm a robin's skin.)
  • Bathing helps keep robins warm in winter! Clean feathers are warmer feathers. It they aren't clean and in good shape, the feathers don't insulate the bird as well. That means the robin must burn more energy to stay warm at a time when it is a matter of survival. Baths are important all year round.
Winter robins flock together at a bird bath.

Photo:
Becky Stanton
What about your robins?
Does your schoolyard or backyard have places where robins can drink and bathe? If not, you can help them out by filling a bowl or bird bath with one or two inches of water. Then keep your eyes peeled! (In warm weather, you'll need to replace the water every few days.)

 



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