When I posted a picture of this pitiful-looking bluejay on my daily photo site, some viewers expressed sympathy for him and his (normal, but sickly-looking) appearance. Molting, the process that causes some birds to lose their old, worn out feathers and get new ones, does leave the poor bird looking pretty sad for a short time.
Molting, sometimes called shedding, is a process in which an animal routinely casts off a part of its body, either at specific times of the year, or at specific points in its life cycle.
For some of us, who photograph birds, a bird like this bluejay may look alarming in the advanced stages of the molting process; however, it is a natural process that occurs regularly (often seasonally) in bird and other animals. Many pet owners, for example, will be aware of shedding when they must clean their dog’s or cat’s hair off the sofa or vacuum it from the floor. Shedding is a form of molting. Chickens are another example of animals that molt, which I knew, but I didn’t know they often stop laying eggs until their new feathers grow in. Another interesting fact I discovered is that salamanders and frogs shed their skin, and then often eat it. These are just a few examples of molting. Students of biology and people who regularly work with animals in the course of their daily jobs would probably take our bluejay’s scraggly appearance for granted, knowing it is caused by a normal process, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Now that I know (a little), I thought I would share what I learned with the rest of you.
Thanks for reading this far. If you have anything to add to this rudimentary information, please join in the conversation by adding a comment below.
See you along the trail soon.
Carolyn aka Skip