23 Aug Don’t Cry for Me, Audubon
Audubon, sing with me.
Don’t cry for me, Audubon.
“You may think molt looks strange.
Just imagine how the bird must feel.
And yet they need your love, after all they go through.
You might not believe what you see.
But they’re still the bird you knew.
Although they’re tattered and torn,
not really dressed as they used to be,
they choose freedom,
being able to fly with everything new.”
So what is molt?
Molt is the replacement of feathers.
And birds molt throughout their lives, from juvenile plumage into adult plumage, from basic plumage into breeding plumage, and from worn plumage into new plumage.
Note that the two photos show different examples of molt.
The California Towhee has begun to shed worn shape feathers on its head. And the Snowy Egret is growing new wing feathers.
Most birds molt gradually and systematically. If they were to drop all their feathers at the same time, they’d have to walk to work.
So they go through a process that retains their ability to fly.
But some birds (such as ducks, loons, and grebes) undergo synchronous wing molt where they shed all their flight feathers at one time. Then they remain flightless for 3 to 5 weeks.
Thus, you may see some birds that look shabby, especially at the end of summer. They may even be difficult to recognize because they’ve lost characteristics commonly used to identify them.
In any case, continue to wave a warm hello.
After all, kindness given to birds begins with kindness in ourselves.
And that will always help you feel better.
PS: See a better view of a California Towhee here: Birds Up Close (Recently revised)
Help Birds Tip
Molt (But do this as a human)
Why: We need to be better earth citizens.
How #1: Start by asking, Is this good for the earth?
How #2: Then replace worn, obsolete habits with new habits that are widely beneficial for all.
For example, eating organic foods leads to less pollution; Using less gas leads to less global warming; Shopping wisely leads to less waste.
Yes, someone actually wrote a book about Molt. See: Molt in North American Birds, by Steve N. G. Howell
Buy this book and then put it where visitors can see it. They will be impressed. And it may start memorable conversations.