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The Organization of Dustbathing Components in Bobwhite Quail (Colinus Virginianus)

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The components of dustbathing in 12 male and 12 female Bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) were described. These components form a sequence of entering the dust, pecking and scratching in the dust while standing, squatting in the dust, pecking and scratching in the dust while squatting, movements of the wings and feet to toss dust onto the ruffed plumage (dust toss), rubbing the head and side in the dust (head rub and side rub), rising, ruffling the feathers and vigorously shaking the dust out of the plumage (ruffle-shake), exiting the dust, and engaging in other behavior such as eating and drinking. Two tests were conducted at 1 day of deprivation of dust (to assess the reliability of both frequencies and sequences of components) and one test at 5 days of deprivation (to assess changes in these measures with increases in deprivation). The frequencies of seven of these components and the sequence in which the components first occurred had statistically significant reliability coefficients at both levels of deprivation. The frequencies of the components involved in driving dust into the plumage (dust toss, head rub, side rub) were significantly correlated. A statistic to measure the stability of these correlations was introduced. The frequencies of eight of the components showed significant increases with greater deprivation of dust. Male birds showed more of an increase with deprivation in the frequencies of the head and side rub components than did female birds. The sequence in which the components occurred was analyzed. The first occurrences of the dust toss, head rub, and side rub components were invariably in this order, for all of the birds tested at each deprivation level. The order of the first occurrences of the remaining components was variable. Individual components were generally repeated many times throughout a sequence; the order of each occurrence of each of the components was extremely variable between birds and tests. These results are discussed in terms of a lipid regulation model which suggests that dustbathing serves to remove lipid substances from the plumage.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA


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