Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bald is (not) Beautiful

Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Today's post is in singalong form, sung to the tune of Time of the Season by The Zombies.

It's the time....
of the season....

(dum, dum, dum)
for feather mites.

In this time

preening isn't easy
(dum, dum, dum)
and you can try with beak and feet
To preen away the nasties
on your head
but they're just out of reach

Its the time
for male card'nal pattern bald-ness!

I could go on, but there's a restraining order...

Every fall we get several calls at Bird Watcher's Digest about "This weird-looking bird at my feeder! It's like a cardinal but it has a black head!"

It's an annual occurrence. The feather mites build up on cardinals and other birds in late summer and concentrate or do their most obvious damage in the one place that a bird cannot preen: its own head. I've seen bluebirds and blue jays with similar feather loss, but it seems to be most common or at least most noticeable in northern cardinals.

The head feathers get degraded by the mites and fall out. For a week or two the pathetic-looking cardinals come and go to our feeding stations sporting vulture-like black skin heads. Then, in one of Nature's most merciful acts, new feathers grow in and the cardinals look normal again.


On September 30, 2008 at 3:29 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

Nice post. They're starting to look a whole lot better now, those bald guys.

On September 30, 2008 at 3:37 PM Rondeau Ric said...

I can believe in the restraing order.
we have a number of grackles with solar panel heads.

On September 30, 2008 at 3:44 PM Anonymous said...

What an interesting phenomenon. We live in the woods. We have a large population of cardinals but the mite population must be non existent. At least to the point of causing visual damage.

On September 30, 2008 at 3:46 PM Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Love the song.
I was singing it loud and large!
The Zombies will never sound the same to me.

On September 30, 2008 at 4:29 PM Bill of the Birds said...

What's your name?
Who's your daddy?

On September 30, 2008 at 4:51 PM Kyle said...

Actually, that looks a whole lot like a guy that works down the hall from me. I wonder if it be rude of me to ask if he has mites...


On September 30, 2008 at 5:14 PM Anonymous said...

Valuable information indeed.

On October 1, 2008 at 11:50 AM Cindie Ulreich said...

I was singing along...you are a funny, funny man! Thanks for a sorely needed laugh today.

On October 1, 2008 at 12:47 PM Mary said...

Poor ugly thing. He must be very embarrassed.

Love that tune! Took me way back to psychedelic days.

On October 1, 2008 at 7:23 PM Jason Kessler said...

I had a Bluejay this past August who, like your Cardinal, was a candidate for The Feather Club For Males.

Boy, that song does linger, don't it? Guess that's why they call it a "hook."

On October 6, 2008 at 10:20 AM dguzman said...

I've never seen one of these guys, but that song will be stuck in my head probably until I do.

On October 7, 2008 at 6:14 PM Kathie Brown said...

Ha! Loved the poem! I feel sorry for the poor bird however.