I sometimes get questions from readers concerned that something is wrong with the balding birds that they are seeing around their yards or around town, but, usually, nothing is amiss. In fact, something is right. The bird with the dodgy feathers has completed his or her duties as a parent, having flown him/herself ragged while providing food and protection for the next generation. The old crop of feathers has been completely worn out in the process and it's time for the bird to drop them and grow some new and perfect ones. Thus, you might see a Northern Cardinal that looks like this today:
He does look a little shabby and down-at-heel, doesn't he? But in a few weeks, he'll look like this:
Sleek and beautiful once again.
And, as for the disheveled Northern Mockingbird that was perched just outside my office window this morning, don't feel sorry for him.
He may look like this today, with his bare neck showing.
But give him a few weeks and he'll be back in top form again!
I do think it is very clever of Mother Nature to have scheduled the molt for a time when the birds surely need some relief from the heat. There are few better insulation materials than down and feathers. They help birds survive in some of the coldest climates on earth, but in August in Texas, it's time to shuck off every feather that you reasonably can. It's molting time.