Why Do Birds Preen?

by Ganesh Jayaraman
Ganesh Jayaraman
A laggar falcon preens itself in Tal Chapar

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

Birds have up to 25,000 feathers, and regular preening keeps each feather in top condition. Second only to feeding, preening is a common bird behaviour easily observed.

Birds have up to 25,000 feathers, and regular preening keeps each feather in top condition. Second only to feeding, preening is a common bird behaviour easily observed.

So, why do they preen? Here are some reasons:

  • Aligning feathers for optimum waterproofing and insulation
  • Aligning feathers into the most aerodynamic shape for easier, more efficient flight;
  • Removing feather parasites and body lice that can destroy feathers or carry disease
  • Removing tough sheaths from newly molted feathers; creating a healthier appearance to attract a mate
  • Bonding between mates as a courtship ritual that involves mutual preening, called allopreening


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