As a wildlife photographer, I get to observe some fascinating animal behaviors right in my own backyard. One of my favorite sights is when I spot a Blue Jay sunbathing in the middle of my yard.

Blue Jay Sunbathing

Blue Jay Sunbathing

Earlier this week, I was outside and saw a beautiful Blue Jay sprawled out on the ground, with its wings spread wide to soak up the morning sunlight. The bird lay perfectly still with its feathers puffed up to allow maximum sun exposure. Its wings were fully extended to absorb as much heat from the sun’s rays as possible. It was a classic sunbathing position for a Blue Jay seeking relief from parasites while also getting some much-needed vitamin D.

Avian sunbathing has mystified ornithologists for decades, but recent research is confirming an old suspicion that the behavior helps birds fend off lice and other parasites. When the sun’s rays penetrate the feathers, it creates an environment too hot and dry for parasites to withstand.

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Avian Biology found that wild birds purposefully sunbathe in response to higher loads of feather lice. Not only does sunbathing cook the parasites, it also prompts preening which allows birds to pick off the dead lice. This suggests that birds innately know sunning will relieve them from the irritation of lice infestations.

In addition to parasite defense, sunbathing may serve other purposes for birds. Some species use sunbathing to regulate their body temperature and dry off their feathers after getting wet. The warmth from the sun can also stimulate vitamin D production to maintain strong bones.

Whatever the reasons may be, I always delight in witnessing a bird fully engaged in a sunbathing session. It’s a tranquil reminder to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures, like letting the sun’s rays soak into your skin on a lazy afternoon. We humans could learn a thing or two from our feathered friends.

Gear Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Lens: RF100-500 mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM


  • Location: My Yard (Arkansas)
  • Date and Time Taken: July 7, 2022 (09:22 A. M.)
  • Exposure Mode: Manual
  • Aperture: f8
  • Shutter speed: 1/800
  • ISO: 320 (Auto)
  • Exposure Compensation: 0
  • Focal Length: 500 mm

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