Dirty Bird Bath
Florida is typically inundated in the summer. It rains. It pours. It floods. Our backyard was routinely underwater for a few months every year and as kids, my sister and I would love to run through the water and tackle each other. The more soaked and muddy you were the better. It was the opposite of bathing. I don’t know where my mother was and why she tolerated this.
Florida is typically dry in the winter. From December to May – it rarely rains and fresh water is a commodity. This winter has been one of the rainiest on record and when I look outside my home and see the ditches filling with water, I find myself counting the days until my little sister’s annual April visit.
Due to the surprising amount of standing water on the ground, we had an uncommon wildlife sighting a few days ago. While driving through the grassy, open fields of Cape Coral, I noticed a distinct white-headed bird peering out over the brush. Thinking it was injured, I pulled closer to see if we could help and handed my wife the camera, instructing her to start snapping away.
The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was just fine. In fact it was enjoying a nice wallow in a pool of fresh water that had accumulated from the previous day’s rain. Many birds will bathe to rid their feathers of excess preen oil. In the absence of fresh water, they may take a dust bath and if the opportunity presents itself they’ll splash around in the water and then flap about in the dirt.
The eagle splashed in the pool and spread each feather, letting the water soak each one and reach all the way to the skin. From time to time it would tilt its head sideways and glance skyward, more concerned with threats from above than the sound of the shutter of the camera. Within a few minutes the bird looked as if it was weighted down with water and was clearly having a bad feather day. The disheveled bird had feathers pointing in every direction. A good bath is usually followed by preening, where feathers are dried and realigned. We left the eagle to its cleaning. If it keeps raining we’ll have the cleanest birds in the world.