Birds Change Coloring

Aug 13, 2017

August 16 - August 22

Discover nature this week as birds get ready for a change of season.

The mall isn’t the only place where fashions are changing in response to the coming fall season. Take a close look at your neighborhood birds and you’ll see they’re already losing their bright colors in preparation for cooler weather.

During late summer, many birds go through a molting period, when they replace old feathers with new ones. Depending on the species, molting might be complete or partial, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. After the summer molt, males of many species will have lost their colorful breeding plumage in exchange for their basic coloring. Other species will still replace their old feathers with new ones, but they’ll keep the same colors. Many birds also molt from a juvenile to adult plumage which is a molting process that can take several years.

Summer is the best time to molt because the stresses of breeding and nesting are over, and new and more abundant feathers will help birds cope with winter cold and migration. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, a few species, including ducks, geese and swans, replace all their feathers at once, in less than a month’s time. Because these synchronous molters can’t fly while they molt, they will spend this time in secluded areas, where they’re less vulnerable to predators. Some birds molt more than once a year, molting into more vivid colors again prior to the breeding season, because brighter colors make it easier to attract a mate.

Some of Missouri’s most colorful birds include the cardinal, blue jay, scarlet tanager, the American gold finch, the northern oriole, and of course Missouri’s state bird, the blue-bird.

To coax some of Missouri's prettiest birds into your yard, you can purchase or build a bird feeder or house. For building plans and placement pointers, go online to MissouriConservation.org.