Friday, June 16, 2017

Northern Cardinal, Molt

This female Northern Cardinal is looking sort of shabby right now, but she'll soon be back in top-flight shape.

She is molting, as her head feathers are being replace with fresh new ones. Most eastern songbirds go through molts. Feathers wear out, fade and fray. They must be replaced periodically. This usually happens after the young have fledged, but before the next migration.

All birds go through molts... from hummingbirds to penguins. A bird without feathers is really vulnerable, so we rarely see molting birds. They tend to hide until they are once again fully dressed.

This male Northern Cardinal is looking well suited at present, but his time to molt will come, too.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

Some birds go through a full molt, losing all their feathers at once and some go through two molts a year. It depends on the species.

Being without your warm coat of feathers may have and upside during the hot steamy dog-days of summer. It may just be the right time go naked.

Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds