Love Is In the Air

Valentine’s Day doesn’t exclude wildlife. This time of year you might notice some extraordinary changes in colors, sounds and overall appearance of some animal species; especially the birds.

The process in which birds develop new feathers and shed their old ones is called molting. All birds molt, but the new feathers can vary quite a bit depending on the species and purpose of the feathers. Seasons play a big factor in these changes too. Birds may molt to better match or camouflage with their surroundings or they may put on more distinct feathers to impress a potential mate during the breeding season. Birds also molt their feathers to ensure they can continue to serve their main purposes: to keep them warm, dry and airborne.

Other changes that take place during the breeding season are most evident in the wading birds. Many of these birds will start to show changes in color in the region between the bill and the eyes (called the “lore”) in addition to the molting changes mentioned above. Below are just a few examples of the changes that can take place in some of our wading birds:

SNOWY EGRET

The lore of Snowy Egrets will transition from a yellow to reddish color. In addition to the lore changes, the feathers or plumage of the Snowy Egrets also change as they begin to develop long, delicate feathers on their back, chest and head. Furthermore, the color of the Snowy Egrets feet changes too; they transition from a yellowish-green to more of a deep orange-yellow.

IMG_1832_Egret_display_ed_25

Snowy Egret showing reddish lore and breeding plumage.

 

ANHINGA

The lore of Anhinga will turn a beautiful iridescent blue-green during the breeding season.

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) DSC_6156

A female Anhinga with blue-green lore.

 

 

GREAT BLUE HERON

Similar to the Snowy Egret, the Great Blue Heron also develops long, wispy feathers on the back of the head and chest during the breeding season.

great blue heron

Great Blue Heron with breeding plumage.

 

 

GREAT EGRET

The Great Egret will also begin to show long, thin feathers along the back during breeding season and will display a pretty greenish to blue/yellow lore.

great egret

Great Egret with blue-yellow-green lore and breeding plumage.

 

The examples listed above showcase changes in feathers and appearance that are associated with the breeding season and thus it is suggested that these changes are designed to help attract a mate. What other changes have you seen? Let me know on facebook or twitter!