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Monday, September 19, 2016

Molting birds aren’t sick or in pain…it’s natural

Around this time of year, lots of birds look shopworn, unkempt and raggedy. Don‘t worry about it! 

Birds lose some or all of their feathers on a regular basis. It’s called “molting”, and the regularity of it depends on the species. New totally-normal feathers grow back.

Feathers are NOT alive, but are keratin much like hair or fingernails on humans. When they get too worn, the birds’ bodies slough them off and new ones grow. This helps them stay warm when needed. Usually it’s simply due to the ravages of time, and our climate, that wear out feathers. But other causes may be at fault.

A common reason is microscopic mites which occur on all birds. Normally, a bird preens them off using his beak. But in areas that the bird can’t reach (like the neck or head) the mites may overpopulate and ruin a lot of feathers.  Winter weather will take care of mites, but the birds look bad for a time.

There’s no need for you to worry about it. There’s nothing for you to do but wait for cooler weather to solve the problem naturally.

Owen Yost, in addition to blogging, is a Landscape Architect emeritus from here, whos worked in north Texas for over 30 years.  He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Society of Landscape Architects, the National BirdFeeding Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Native Plant Society of Texas. His design office is at




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