Two Great Crested Flycatchers Sunbathing

Shortly after noon today – another hot day, temperatures in the 90s – two Great Crested Flycatchers came to the sunny part of the deck, right outside our kitchen window, and settled down for a sunbath.

Sitting side by side, both lowered their bellies to the wood floor, long cinnamon tail and wings with cinnamon feathers spread out wide, big gray heads turned slightly upward, dark eyes watchful. They sat very still like this for several minutes. Feathers all over their bodies seemed to be ruffled and spread out. At times their bills were open and they might have been panting, but at other times their bills were closed. The deck must have been very warm, if not hot, and the sun was directly overhead, but they looked as if it felt good.

Then something startled them and both flew away abruptly to a nearby tree. Later – maybe an hour or so – one of them was back, basking in the sun again.

Sunbathing appears to be a fairly common activity for many species of birds, and while a number of different reasons for it have been suggested, it seems likely that sunning helps keeps plumage healthy, especially by helping to discourage or get rid of parasites.

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