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plumage

Why Is That Bird Part White? Leucism!

If you see a bird with abnormal white feathers or washed-out plumage, that bird may have a genetic condition called leucism, (pronounced LUKE-ism). Leucism prevents pigments from reaching some — or sometimes all — of a bird’s feathers. Check out these photos of leucistic birds by several BirdNote... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Have You Ever Seen a Pink Gull?

Some gulls and terns may show a glowing pink color, similar to that of flamingos and spoonbills. This pink color comes from pigments in the birds' food called carotenoids. These gulls and terns are able to convert these naturally occurring pigments to hues that may enhance their success at... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Why Is My Robin Half White?

If you see a bird with abnormal white feathers, like this American Robin, that bird may have a genetic condition called leucism. Leucistic birds, like all-white birds bred in captivity, have a genetic condition preventing pigments from reaching some — or sometimes all — of a bird’s feathers.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Great Egret's Lacy Courtship

Male Great Egrets have special long feather plumes called aigrettes, which they use in courtship displays in the spring. These beautiful big birds were nearly hunted to extinction for these special feathers, which were used to adorn ladies’ hats. The plight of the egret spurred people to organize... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, plumage

A Trick of the Light . . .

Anna's Hummingbirds sparkle with iridescence... with their emerald green back and hot pink throats — known as gorgets. But wait! Catch them in a certain light, and the sparkle goes away, or entirely new and vibrant colors appear. The microscopic structure of the feather barbules — not pigments —... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Male vs. Female Plumage

The males and females of many bird species, like these Blue Jays, look identical. And crows, which at least to our eyes, are all the same color and size. But even if we can’t tell male from female, the birds can. Scientists believe crows may be able to tell each other apart by slight variations... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Black Turnstones Head South

Black Turnstones are back at Alki! It's mid-August and Gregg Thompson is photographing Black Turnstones returning to the Puget Sound area for the winter. And he's trying to sort through the group, studying different plumages and ages. Most of these birds are adult non-breeders or adults coming... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Which Bird Has the Most Feathers

In general, the bigger the bird, the higher the number of feathers. Someone counted the feathers on a Tundra Swan and came up with 25,216. At least 80% were on the swan’s neck. Penguins, on the other hand, have lots of small feathers all over their bodies. The largest species is the Emperor... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Eau de Junco

It’s junco season in North America. Flocks of these white-bellied snowbirds are kicking and scratching on woodland edges and beneath feeders from southern Canada to Mexico. On warm winter days, the males may even break into song. But songs and calls aren’t the only way Dark-eyed Juncos... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Long-tailed Duck: Little Known Duck of Many Secrets!

The Long-tailed Duck is not widely known outside birdwatching circles. But what a wonderful duck it is. Found only locally at certain times of the year, and with an oddly goofy, human-like voice, the otherwise elegant Long-tailed Duck has some interesting departures from "normal" duck biology... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

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