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Pygmy Nuthatches Take Arboreal Bath

John L. Blackford
Publication Information
5 (September-October)
From Field and Study

Pygmy Nuthkcha Take Arboti Bath-At about 9:30 a.m. on January 26, 1941, I noted five Pygmy Nuthatches (Sitto pygntaea) frolicking among dripping bough tips 25 feet up in a young Douglas fir (Psetufotsuga taxifo&z) at Libby, Montana. The tree stood in mixed broadleaf and conifer forest, at this point 20 yards from bordering yellow pines (Pinus ponderosa). The excited romping among the needled branchlets was accompanied by an uncommonly large amount of loud, boisterous twittering, which first attracted my attention to them. I observed the nuthatches at this procedure for several more minutes.

A light snow had fallen during the night. The sun now shone through fast-breaking clouds. Temperature in the shade was 40°F. Melting snow on evergreens, larches and deciduous broadleafs hung every branch and needle tip with crystal droplets that sparkled brilliantly in the bright sunshine. The spirited clambering of the birds among the dripping boughs appeared to be a very wet activity. The nuthatches seemingly sought the wettest needle tufts of the heavily foliaged fir. I had never seen this species bathing at a stream or pool. But here without doubt they were engaged in taking a mid-winter “fir-needle bath.”

All the nuthatches had well dampened plumage. They would shake their feathers violently, then plunge again into the soaking branchlets. One or two shook themselves quite dry and flew on ahead. -JOHN L. BLACKFORD, Libby, Montana, May 2,1955. 

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