Why Do Birds Preen?

Ganesh Jayaraman


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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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