Birds Gone Bald

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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...


  1. He need some vitamins hi is missing the feather
    So sorry about
    Good lock with him

  2. This was very interesting. I never knew this. My mother loved birds and especially red ones.

  3. The strangest bird at my feeder is the one filling it (either me or my husband). I can remember seeing chickens molting but I have never seen any at our feeders. It makes them kind of pathetic looking, doesn't it? Great pictures though...good captures! xo Diana

  4. Hi Cindy, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog!
    I have never seen a bird that has gone bald! The Cardinals looks really sick with their bald heads, but I am glad too read that at least in most cases it is a natural temporary phenomenon. The fully feathered the red Cardinals are truly strikingly beautiful birds. Unfortunately, I have never seen one in person, but I hope I will travel in the future to areas where they are around.
    You bird photos are stunning! Thanks for this great post!
    Warm regards,

  5. Wow - that is so interesting. These photo's are amazing - thanks for the great info !

  6. Wanda Murphy August 9, 2017August 10, 2017 at 1:10 AM

    I live in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. This August I am seeing for the first time bald Blue Jays. When first I saw one, I thought it was even a different bird species. Then when I realized it was a blue jay I was alarmed and started reading up on it. We had none Blue Jays in August last year that were regulars in our garden and none were bald. This year, most of them are. I can't wait for them to look like they always do. I will also be relieved that they are not uncomfortable from some kind of mite or environmental damage and that it is just they're regular molting. We love our Blue Jays


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