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Welcome to the Pine River Review. Our sight is dedicated to our little homestead located along the Pine River tucked inside the Chippewa Nature Center's 1400 Acres of wild in Michigan's lower penninsula. We love to share our pictures, video, comment, and our own homespun music. Step inside our world as we celebrate this beautiful nook!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

World Bird WednesdayXLIII

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.

#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!


  1. Brilliant photography especially the Bobolink, she is outstanding.

  2. Springman, great post, as per usual! At our local sanctuary, the moult is in full bloom. For anyone who collects feathers (me) they are all over the place! It's an amazing process.

  3. A great read and lovely images..
    We are in the same season in the UK at the moment...Scruffy little birds but I love them all.

  4. Very interesting post. Those turkeys really do look scruffy!

  5. Superb post as usually! I do love the turkeys:)

  6. It is so fun to read what you have to say. :) You are a good writer as well as a good photographer of birds. :) And you know a lot I wish I did.

    The hawk and the owl are my favourites today.

  7. Great photos as always Springman. Seeing that Bobolink reminds me of one that turned up near me this time last year. For us it is an incredibly rare bird and set the grape vine alight across the UK. I was one of the fortunate twenty or so who got to see it before it was gone the next day. Cue hundreds of birders staking out an area of grass that no longer held anything!

  8. You always have a great post, Springman! I look forward each week to World Bird Wednesday. I love your owl and the cute female Bobolink.

  9. you are sharing some awesome photo's this week. i love the turkey vulture....i have one saved for next week.

    thanks for hosting this, my newest addiction!!

  10. Hi Springman, your bird photos get more and more impressive each time I log in. I absolutely love the colors in the first turkey image and your commentary couldn't be better. It is always fun and sensible to equate animal ways to our own humanity. I think it brings us in closer alignment with the animal kingdom. Always a wise and helpful way to view our place on this planet. Love the bokeh on the red tail hawk and bobolink, both perched so daintily on their little branches, to bring them into high relief. Your birds are so alert, lively and elegant! You bring me so close to their reality!

  11. Springman, Your header Hawk blew me away when it loaded. Dang...when will I learn that every week you have a breathtaking photo to blow me away.:)

  12. Hello and welcome to WBWXLIII
    Thank you as always for your kind comments, they are appreciated!
    We are slipping into Autumn in the Northern hemisphere and looking forward to migration. I think I might go out and check for new arrivals today, how about you?

  13. It's always sad/comical to see a bald Cardinal or Blue Jay or a Grackle without the marvelous iridescent feathers around his neck. But I know they'll be beautiful dashes of color in the winter landscape. Your photo of the Turkeys in the tall grass gives us a taste of the approaching fall season and the Hawk photo in your header is wonderful!

  14. You know so much about these species. Very interesting post, well supported by pictures.

  15. OK so now I know why the turkeys I see look so much less healthy (to my eye) than they did when we first got here. I learned a lot -- all while admiring your fabulous pictures.

    (And re human evolution (and closets) vive la difference!)

  16. Hello, Springman! Well, I finally made it back. I was sad to miss the last two weeks, and I wanted to thank you for leaving such thoughtful comments and observations. I just started my own linky is my 100th post, so I am celebrating :)Such a learning curve for me! Hey, if you want to link-up on my blog, it's not all about food; rather anything encouraging to others. your birds and the lessons I learns are very encouraging :)

  17. Awesome photos as always Dave! Thanks for sharing all the excellent molting info. Good stuff! The Mallards and several other duck species do the flightless molt lasting 3 - 4 weeks.

  18. I posted a bird pic on my blog but I was too late to post it here. Please take a look and identify the Owl. Thank you. MB

  19. Hi there - How do you manage to get so many bird of prey shots? Do you tame them?! Great header shot.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Australia

  20. Another of your deliciously worded posts that is a joy to read. Sorry I was so late posting but . . . sometimes, caring for one's nearest and dearest in the presence of Mr.Alzheimer, tends to put quite a number of other things out of mind an reach.
    I wonder if there is a blogging malaise setting in as most memes have a noticeable drop in participants. Is it the change inn seasons, the full moon, or other more regional influences? Love those scantily clad turkeys . . .

  21. Great shots! No we aren't seeing any color change yet but very much looking forward to it. It has been a very wet summer and we just need the cool temps to seal the deal!