6 July 2021
If you see an odd and ugly bird like this northern cardinal don’t worry that he’s ill. He isn’t sick. He’s just temporarily bald.
Many birds molt in the summer when they’ve finished breeding and food is plentiful. Warm weather is the perfect time to lose worn out feathers, a few at a time, and grow in new ones. Some northern cardinals and blue jays however lose all their head feathers simultaneously and become bald for about a week. This happens so often among blue jays in North Carolina that it’s considered normal there.
Birds also go temporarily bald during the molt if they have feather mites on their heads. Lose all the head feathers and lose the mites, too.
Bald birds are ugly, though. Their ears are just holes near their eyes, their heads look small, and their skin doesn’t match the missing feathers. Nonetheless, it’s temporary.
So don’t worry if you see a bird like this one in the video. He’s not sick. He’s just bald.
(photo of bald northern cardinal photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)