Water bathing alters threat perception in starlings.
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The majority of bird taxa perform water bathing, but little is known about the adaptive value of this behaviour. If bathing is important for feather maintenance then birds that have not bathed should have poorer feather condition, compromised escape ability and therefore increased responsiveness to cues of predation. We conducted two experiments examining the behaviour of captive starlings responding to conspecific alarm calls. Birds that had no access to bathing water showed a decreased willingness to feed and increased their vigilance behaviour following an alarm call. We argue that birds denied access to bathing water interpreted an ambiguous cue of threat as requiring more caution than birds that had access, consistent with higher levels of anxiety. Our results support the provision of bathing water for captive birds as an important welfare measure.
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