About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Friday, July 6, 2018

How birds grow new feathers

Ruby-throated with pin feathers via Wikimedia Commons
During the summer months you are going to see a lot of scruffy looking birds. Usually after nesting season, and in preparation for migration or a harsh winter, most birds go through full molt to replace all their worn out feathers. This 6 to 8 week molting period is a critical stage in a bird’s life.

Most birds’ feather loss and replacement is gradual. Birds must retain sufficient feathers to regulate their body temperature and repel moisture. After a bird begins to shed some old feathers, then pin feathers grow. A pin feather is a developing replacement feather that comes out in a waxy coating. You may observe more birds bathing in the sun, water, or even the dust as they try to remove itchy waxy coatings, and allow the new feathers to unfurl.

During molt, birds may become less agile in flight and have a difficult time evading predators. Some species of birds even become flightless during an annual "wing molt" and must seek a protected habitat with a reliable food supply during that time.

Because feathers make up 4–12% of a bird's body weight, it takes a large amount of energy to replace them. For the next few months, keep your feeders clean and full of fresh food to ensure that your birds have a reliable food source to help them during this stressful time.

Related articles:

- Types of Bird feathers http://goo.gl/W9rzP
- Why Birds don't Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter: http://bit.ly/mPa0Y8
- How small birds stay warm in the winter: http://bit.ly/q3dDqj
- Why birds molt: http://bit.ly/ox5Hwi
- Blue Jays aren't blue: http://bit.ly/pMN37k
- Fossils of colored feathers: http://bit.ly/nc2UeA

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