The Meaning of the Molt
How is your molting coming along this morning? These threadbare turkeys, roaming through the secretive cover of the tall grass in the Shiawassee Nature Refuge late last week, are well into their juvenile molt but not so far along that their neck feathers have come in completely. Fortunately food is plentiful these late Summer days with so many insects buzzing about and wild flowers going to seed, all helping to sustain this runaway growth spurt. The massive weight gain a young turkey undergoes that first summer coupled with the physiological act of producing enough feathers to lift it's body into flight is impressive even in perfect conditions. Juvenile turkeys go through three moltings the first year and two a year after that. The full adult molt is taking place right now and the pre-nuptial molt, highlight of the turkey calender, takes place in late winter.Ever sensitive to a change in season, Suzanne informs me she will soon be molting out of her skimpy summer wardrobe and into her sweaters, skirts, and boots. That transformation will occur in the mysterious, ever evolving place that is her closet. Rather than molting, I on the other hand, simply add or subtract layers of blue or green colored clothing as the temperature demands! We have evolved in strangely different ways Suz' and I.
It's easy to see how the turkey was coerced into lending it's name to the Turkey vulture. Having a bald faced neck end like that would make anyone a little self-conscious in the company of anyone but a vulture.
Red tailed hawks are also deep into their molt. I saw this prime example along the highway on my way home. Why hawks love their roadside perches so well is anybodies guess but it sure works out for me. Shouldn't they avoid the traffic noise and seek more isolated meadows?This bird gave me ample opportunity to get the long exposures necessary for a good picture in the cloudy light. Rather than to few feathers this Buteo seems to be exploding with them, it's fluffed out expanse of chest feathers reminiscent in girth to a Great-horned owl. Feathers are made of keratin, a substance not unlike plastic hence their water resistant ruggedness.
This female Bobolink sports a wonderfully subtle and well groomed plumage while the male bobolinks are currently undergoing a messy post breeding wardrobe change. Keeping a set of feathers flight ready is a full time job. They must be washed, dusted, preened and straightened. Natures magnificent logic can be appreciated in the orderly replacement of a birds feathers through molting. Tail feathers in most cases are replaced symmetrically two at a time from the center of the fan outwards towards the edges, an arrangement that keeps a bird flight worthy and maneuverable. A woodpecker however, relies on it's center two tail feathers to counter balance it's body as it hammers a tree trunk. The molting process for woodpeckers is thusly reversed, the outside feathers are developed first until they can temporarily lend support when the center feathers are eventually dropped. Some larger birds shed all their flight feathers at once making them particularly vulnerable for a short time. The logic here being that the loss of even a few flight feathers during a prolonged molt would compromise their flight characteristics to greatly for to long a period of time. While we conjecture; Wisdom has dictated: Flock together and tough out the complete overhaul!
Do humans Molt? The lifespan of a skin cells is approximately 35 days before it is jettisoned. Ours is a continuous molt that sees our fleshy spare tires retreaded and shredded more than ten times a year. Upon hearing this news Suzanne quips,"Is that what I've been vacuuming up around here? No more molting in the house!"
Now it's time for World Bird Wednesday!
This is the home of World Bird Wednesday. A place for bird photographers from around the world to gather and share their photographs and experiences as they pursue Natures most beautiful treasurers, the birds.
World Bird Wednesday will be open for posting at 12 noon Tuesday EST North America through midnight on Wednesday.
#1. Simply copy the above picture onto your W.B.W. blog entry, it contains a link for your readers to share in the fun. Or, you can copy this link on to your blog page to share WBW. http://pineriverreview.blogspot.com/
#2. Come to The Pine River Review on Tuesday Noon EST North America through Wednesday midnight and submit your blog entry with Linky.
#3. Check back in during the course of the next day and explore these excellent photoblogs!
The idea of a meme is that you will visit each others blogs and perhaps leave a comment to encourage your compadres!
Come on it's your turn!