Have you ever wondered how fluffy and scraggly-looking baby birds transform into sleek adults over the course of a few short weeks in July? Or why do the bright yellow goldfinches that decorate your garden all summer turn a dingy brown colour in winter? The answer to both questions is that birds moult.
Bird moulting is the process of losing feathers and replacing them with fresh ones. Sometimes the new feathers are identical to the old ones, and sometimes they look completely different. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about this fascinating and little-known aspect of a bird’s life cycle.
What Is Bird Moulting?
In the same way dogs shed their fur but never go bald, birds are always in the process of losing and growing the small downy feathers closest to their bodies. At certain times of the year, they also replace the long feathers on their wings and tails. Ducks and geese lose them all at once and cannot fly until they grow back. Other birds shed them one at a time so that the process does not impair their flight.
Why Do Birds Moult?
Staying in top flying condition is what bird moult is good for. As birds go about their daily business, the ends of their feathers fray, causing the tips to wear away or break off. Birds use their beaks to straighten and preen damaged areas, but nothing beats getting a fresh new feather to take the place of a raggedy one.
How Do Birds Moult?
If you imagine an old-fashioned quill pen, the shaft is the part you would dip in ink and write with. When a feather first develops, the shaft is soft and filled with blood. As the feather matures, it hollows and hardens. When it is time to get rid of a feather, the shaft disconnects from the skin, and the whole thing simply falls off.
When Do Birds Moult?
In spring, male birds trade out their dull winter plumage for the brilliant blues, reds, and yellows that attract female birds and thrill bird-watching humans. Conversely, trading fancy feathers for less conspicuous ones helps to camouflage birds in fall, when survival is their top priority.
European starlings are an exception because they wear their prettiest feathers in winter. Once they finish the breeding season in early fall, starlings finally have enough energy to moult. The tips of their new feathers are brilliant white, giving them a spotted appearance. These tips gradually wear away, making them appear a solid black colour by spring.
Are Birds Moulting on My Property?
You may wonder whether birds are moulting on your property. Because moulting is a gradual process, finding a pile of feathers on the ground is usually a sign that a predator ate one of your feathered neighbours for lunch, rather than evidence of moulting. However, mounds of bird excrement with downy feathers mixed in is a sign birds are nesting nearby.
What Is Bird Moulting? Skedaddle Knows!
The team at Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control knows the times of year when birds moult, breed, and migrate. We also know how to tell whether birds have invaded your home. So if you are seeing evidence of birds in your eaves or attic, we can tell you what type of birds they are and how to get rid of them.
We are experts at humane bird removal in Kitchener. Without harming any wildlife, we will solve your bird problem and prevent the birds from renesting where you don’t want them. Contact us today by phone to ask any questions you may have about keeping your home wildlife-free.