Ben here with the Tuesday edition of #BenInNature!

Ben here with the Tuesday edition of #BenInNature!

Ben here with the Tuesday edition of #BenInNature! Here we see a dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis) enjoying a bath following the torrential downpour we received this past Friday morning. Before we talk about this particular bird, you might be wondering why birds like to bathe in puddles or in the bird bath in your backyard.

The answer, surprisingly, is that we aren't exactly sure! However, the prevailing theory is that birds need to bathe their feathers to keep them cleaned and well-maintained. Birds only replace their feathers once or twice a year, and as their feathers get beaten up by regular wear-and-tear -- not to mention mites and sun damage -- they become less effective. Birds need their feathers not only for flight, but also to insulate them from harsh weather and waterproof them on rainy days. The best way to keep their feathers cleaned and preserved is likely by splashing around in a puddle from time to time.

As for the dark-eyed junco, these birds are small New World sparrows that can be found across most of North America. They tend to overwinter in the central and southern U.S., breed in Canada, and can be found year-round out west and in New England.

The dark-eyed junco is a bit of a confusing species to identify; not only can they be a bit variable in their coloration, but depending on who you ask, there are as many as 15 different subspecies of this bird belonging to six different groups! Junco family reunions are probably pretty confusing.

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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