I have always seen sparrows digging in the ground at my home in Bombay. Ive wondered why they do it.
Here are a few pictures of this interesting action from the playground of my Bombay home.
I found the explanation in these two websites, which I’m putting here for reference.
This explanation is taken from the website: (Outside My Window: A Bird Blog with Kate St. John)
House sparrows prefer very fine dust and will flap up a storm when they find a patch of it. They dig a hollow with their feet, push their bellies into the dust and toss it under their wings and over their backs as if it was water. Their goal is to get the dust into their feathers and all the way down to their skin. When they’re suitably coated they shake off the dust and preen it away until their feathers are in good condition again.
Why go to this trouble? Dust smothers skin and feather parasites and absorbs excess oil that’s removed as the dust is preened away. Did you know you can clean your hair using powder? It’s the same idea.
House sparrows take dust baths even when water is available. Maybe the first house sparrow came from a desert climate. After all, their Paleolithic fossils have been found in Ouum-Qatafa Cave in Israel. If they can clean with dust and save water for drinking, why not?
“For birds that take dust baths, the activity is important for feather maintenance. The dust soaks up excess moisture and oil and probably helps to remove tiny parasites that live on feathers. It’s thought that dust also sooths irritated skin and discourages skin parasites that infest birds. Taking a dust bath may even help birds cool down on hot days