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plumage

The Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a woodpecker, but one that hardly looks the part. Where most woodpeckers are a reliable mix of black, white, and bits of red, the Northern Flicker is buffy tan overall. The undersides of its wings and tail-feathers flash with coppery-red, giving the bird the nickname "Red... read more »

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Why a Gorget Glitters

A hummingbird's brilliant throat feathers are called a "gorget," a term applied in past centuries to the metallic swatch protecting the throat of a knight-in-armor. Light waves reflect and refract off the throat feathers, creating color in the manner of sun glinting off a film of oil on water.... read more »

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House Finches - Red and Yellow

House Finches eat many kinds of seeds and fruits. A careful look at male House Finches at a feeder shows that, while most males show red feathering, some are decidedly more orange - and some even yellow. House Finches acquire their coloration from pigments known as carotenoids in the foods they... read more »

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The Gorgeous Gadwall

When you first glimpse a male Gadwall, you might think you're looking at a female Mallard. But take a closer look, and you'll see plumage as richly and subtly colored as an English gentleman's tweed jacket. For a closer look, click Enlarge under the photo. The Gadwall now nests all across the... read more »

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Ducks Head South

In early fall, you'll see male ducks - like these Mallards - looking very different from when they flew north last spring. The beautiful drakes seem to be gone. But the males are here - sort of "under cover." In mid-summer, they molted into nondescript, dull plumage known as eclipse plumage. But... read more »

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Fancy Ducks

Take a walk around a lake in late November, and you'll find male ducks in their most brilliant breeding colors. These ducks have lost their nondescript late-summer feathers, known as "eclipse plumage." Male dabbling ducks - like this Green-winged Teal - look their finest in late fall and winter,... read more »

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Why Are Blackbirds Black?

Why are blackbirds black? One possible answer is that black is conspicuous against just about all of Nature's backgrounds. Blackbirds, like this flock of Red-winged Blackbirds and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, feed on the ground. Whenever a predator approaches, they take flight. Coming together... read more »

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Barn Swallow Splendor

This lovely creature is a Barn Swallow - notice the rich colors! A genuine master of the air, the swallow swoops low along the ground at high speed, changing direction in the blink of an eye. This prodigy has flown all the way from South America, to offer - without fee - its services as a... read more »

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