Spring and songbirds go hand in hand. Choosing a mate, gathering nesting materials and laying eggs, they are all a pleasure to see and hear, and Cardinals are especially beautiful.
I believe it was last fall when I first saw one. A bird that looked like a scary, prehistoric creature, sitting on my bird feeder.
This Cardinal was beginning to look a little strange around his beak and eyes.
And then this one shows up and he is completely bald. They are bizarre looking and I couldn't help but wonder what was happening or if they might be sick?
I did a little research and learned through Cornell Lab of Ornithology that this most often happens with Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals. Thankfully they aren't sick - they're just molting!
Molting is a normal process for birds, some birds just molt in more abnormal ways. Molting is where a bird's feathers slowly fall out and new feathers slowly grow in. Occasionally birds will lose all their feathers which results in these strange bald-headed birds. Most birds have only one full molt per year but there are a few that have two.
Did you know that feathers, like human hair and nails, are non-living structures? Molting is the way in which birds replace old and possibly damaged feathers, since they are "dead" and can't repair themselves. I found this interesting as I had never even thought about it and figured when I found feathers on the ground it was most likely due to one bird attacking another.
This one looks as if he is striking a pose.
I also learned that baldness may be a result from feather mites, lice, or an environmental or nutritional factor. In these cases, there is evidence of growths or a scabby coating on the skin. For example, Northern Cardinals have black skin, and a different color skin on the head would indicate an ailment.
I'm not sure if this is a Northern Cardinal? If so his head should be black unless he has an ailment as mentioned above. If it is an ailment, I wish I could help him. All I can do is continue to provide quality birdseed and water, and that I will do!
Did you notice the cardinal's ears in the photos above?
Now this is more like it. Full and fluffy red feathered Cardinals; they are so beautiful.
Have you ever seen strange looking birds at your feeders?
Hop on over for Amaze Me Monday...