While researching native shrubs to put in my garden for bird habitat, I read that some birds will take advantage of bushes to clean themselves by rubbing themselves against a wet leaf after rainfall (emphasis below is mine).

Water: Birds that sip nectar from the flowers on shrubs will enjoy the liquid refreshment, and larger shrub leaves will collect small amounts of water that different birds may sip. Birds may even rub against damp leaves for a quick bath.
--The Spruce, "Shrubs for Birds"

I've been unable to find any reference to this from further search on the internet, though - the only cleaning strategies I've found written about are puddle bathing, dust bathing, and anting. Is this strategy of cleaning with wet leaves something that actually happens in nature, or just a product of a gardening website's imagination? Is there another process that could be misinterpreted by an observer here?

If this is real, I would love to read more about it, or even find a picture or video of the behavior.


1 Answer 1


Yes, birds do clean themselves using wet leaves. It is called leaf bathing. Mainly small birds do it but this behavior can be observed in big birds too.

Leaf bathing is the term used when birds make use of the water droplets accumulated on large leaves to bathe. The water in this case came from the rain but it may well come from dew, condensed fog or even from the garden sprinkler or water hose.

Leaf bathing was first reported by L.F. Baptista. In 1971 he observed a Rufous-crowned Sparrow (Aimophila ruficeps) bathing on leaves of an eucalyptus in Berkeley, California.

Here is a video of an olive-backed sunbird having a leaf bath:


I've created a short animated gif from the video also:

enter image description here

Further sources:

  • Mass leaf bathing of sunbirds
  • Tomás, X., Senar, J. C., 2021. Leaf bathing in ring-necked parakeets Psittacula krameri. Arxius de Miscel·lània Zoològica, 19: 131-133, DOI: https://doi.org/10.32800/amz.2021.19.0131
  • Beat about the Bush: Birds by Trevor Carnaby - Google Books
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My god that's adorable. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Jun 1, 2022 at 15:09

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