2023—Water Drops on Feathers

A female Bushtit is covered with water drops after bathing in the fountain. I am always amazed at how birds’ feathers seem to repel water. The water drops bead up and lay on top of the feathers. But, it’s the physical structure of the feather, a system of interlocking barbs, that creates the ability to keep water from penetrating. And, only feathers in good condition can repel water. This little Bushtit is apparently in good health. In my own experience with my Red-lored Amazon Parrot, Bobo, I have seen what happens to a bird’s feathers when they are not healthy. Bobo was malnourished when I first got her 20 years ago, having been fed an unhealthy diet for the prior 17 years. After the first spray bath I gave her, I was alarmed to see that the feathers were drenched and her skin was visible through the feathers. I changed her diet to a healthy one and soon the water began to bead up and roll off her back. It still does, 20 years later. I’m glad to see this little bird is finding the right kind of diet to keep her feathers healthy.