Feathers don’t last forever, so most songbirds will shed them at least once a year. This changeover, called molting, takes place after nesting season is over. By the time of Fall migration, birds are usually re-feathered. This late-summer molt is a total make over.

Birds will lose and replace every one of their feathers beginning at the head and working towards the tail. This feather replacement takes place gradually, so you’ll never see a bald bird. This changing of plumage takes a lot of energy, so the timing in fall makes sense. Birds are done with the hectic chores of raising nestlings, and there’s plenty of food to be used for the energy of molting.

Many songbirds molt a second time, in late winter or early spring, before the breeding season begins. This is when brightly colored songbirds like male goldfinches and tanagers acquire their knock-out colors that make them such a catch from the female’s point of view!

FALL TIP! Many adult birds will undergo a complete molt of their feathers each fall. This, and getting ready for migration requires lots of energy like that found in suet!

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