California Towhee, © Photo by Steve Kaye

Don’t Cry for Me, Audubon

Audubon, sing with me.


California Towhee, © Photo by Steve Kaye, in Don't cry for me Audubon

California Towhee


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.”


Snowy Egret, © Photo by Steve Kaye, in Don't cry for me Audubon

Snowy Egret


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.


Much success,

Steve Kaye

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.


Birding Resources

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.


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6 Comments
  • jerry young
    Posted at 15:07h, 23 August

    Very interesting and helpful. Thank you

  • Eileen Brownell
    Posted at 21:11h, 23 August

    Love the info about molting!!!

  • DeltaT
    Posted at 08:24h, 25 August

    Thanks to you, Steve, I learned something new today. I had no idea that some birds loose their flight feathers all at one time and remain flightless for a long time. Without their ability to fly, they would be even more vulnerable to predators. Do humans have a sort of molting, too? Do we lose our “flight feathers” sometimes so we can better appreciate them when they’re restored?

  • Candace Cox
    Posted at 15:57h, 26 August

    I’m very fond of loons since spending summers at a lake in northern Minnesota. Steve shares info no one else does and in a very entertaining way.. Carry on, Steve. Carry on, molt!

  • Bob Franz
    Posted at 16:56h, 26 August

    And the Egret says, “”I don’t care how many wing feathers I have lost, I’m still prettier than you Towhee!

  • Mary
    Posted at 12:00h, 27 August

    Always love your blogs.
    Mary

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