Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sunbathing -- Avian Style

My first blog entry as a relatively new employee for the World Bird Sanctuary gave me a bit of trouble. 

I was not sure what would be a great topic for my first entry. Obviously, it has to be interesting.  It has to be captivating and it has to make you want to read my entries.  I thought I could talk about my favorite bird; discuss fun facts and the importance of the species.  I could discuss my animal occupations and how I came to the Sanctuary or tell you about my first day on the job.  Maybe, in the future I will use those topics.  But for the first entry, I am currently being inspired by the snow falling down and how I wish I could be in the sun, soaking it in like so many of our birds do when the weather is warm.
Skinner, a Turkey Vulture, sunning (photo by Gay Schroer)
All birds adapt their own posture for sun bathing.  Some stand and open their wings while others may lay flat on the ground.  In both cases, body feathers are often fluffed up and the feathers along the wings are spread out.  Besides just soaking in the sun, these postures serve other important purposes.

For one, the preening oil along the feathers is allowed to spread.  This is the same oil that keeps the feather integrity, has a waterproofing effect, and an antiparasitic effect.
Dewey, a Bateleur Eagle enjoying the sun
Secondly, it also forces parasites out from within the plumage.  At the Sanctuary, we do routine checks on our birds to eliminate the possibility of parasites.  For birds in the wild, this is a helpful technique to help rid them of the nasty vermin.

Besides the healthy benefits that go with sunbathing, it is also hard not to admit that the behavior just looks awesome.  It is not everyday that you get to see these birds sitting still with wings stretched. 
Keeoo, an African Augur Buzzard (photo by Gay Schroer)
The snow may seem endless at times, but when the sun starts to peak through, make a visit out to the World Bird Sanctuary and you may get a glimpse of a sunbathing bird.

Submitted by Dawn Kernrich, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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