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Red lory preening by drawing feathers through its beak
Red lory preening by drawing feathers through its beak

Preening is a bird maintenance behaviour that involves using the beak to position feathers, interlock the barbules, clean plumage, and reduce parasites. Feathers contribute to a bird's insulation, waterproofing and flight, so birds spend much time on preening. They may fluff up their feathers to "rezip" the barbules, and use their beaks to gather preen oil from a gland at the base of their tail. They spread the oil by drawing each contour feather through their bills. Ritualised preening has become part of some courtship displays and a displacement activity when birds are subjected to stress. Preening can be a social activity involving two or more birds called "allopreening", which occurs either between a mated pair or flock members in a social species. This may assist in grooming, the recognition of individuals, or reducing conflict. Most allopreening is confined to the head and neck. Ingestion of pollutants or pathogens during preening can lead to health problems. Injury and infection can cause overpreening in caged birds. (Full article...)

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Great hornbill with a casque
Great hornbill with a casque

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Mark Selby in 2015
Mark Selby

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May 8: World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day; Anniversary of the birth of Miguel Hidalgo in Mexico (1753); Victory in Europe Day (1945)

Sketch of the Versailles rail accident
Sketch of the Versailles rail accident
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Today's featured picture

Mary Lou Williams

Mary Lou Williams (May 8, 1910 – May 28, 1981) was an American jazz pianist, arranger, and composer. She wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements and recorded more than one hundred records. Williams wrote and arranged for Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, and she was friend, mentor and teacher to numerous other jazz musicians. The second of eleven children, she was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A young musical prodigy, she taught herself to play the piano at the age of three. This photograph of Williams at the piano was taken by William P. Gottlieb around 1946.

Photograph credit: William P. Gottlieb; restored by Adam Cuerden

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