What is moulting?

Birds go through a spell of moulting every year during the summer months, the same as many other animals. If you have a pet cat or dog you may have noticed that it sheds a lot of fur in the summer, birds shed their feathers instead!

What to expect to see during moulting season

During moulting season you may well see a lot of rough looking birds and notice a distinct lack of bird song. Some people think that they’re ill or have a disease. Luckily that’s not the case at all – our feathered friends are just going through their annual process of re-feathering!

Why do birds moult?

Over the year feathers get damaged, discolour and deteriorate. As it takes a concentration of protein and a significant span of time to grow new feathers, most species do this in a single burst – when breeding is finished but the weather remains warm. Many species will appear in distinctive patterns of moulting plumage, while young birds such as Robins will go through a partial moult, from spotty, dappled bodies into their familiar orange and brown. Keep your eyes peeled and you may spot some unusual birding sights.

When do birds moult?

August is prime time for bird moulting, the weather’s at it’s warmest so it is the best opportunity to go through this process. Any later or earlier in the year and they’ll get too cold without their insulating feathers.

Which birds moult?

All birds moult however some manage to pull off the scruffy look better than others! Look out for all of your regular garden visitors, if you look carefully you’ll notice every one of them looks less than pristine in and around the summer months!

What can you do to help?

Fewer feathers cause heat loss and low energy reserves. Flight is also less easy or more limited. Birds cope with this vulnerability by sheltering for longer during the day. Whilst moulting the best food to give them needs to be high in energy and versatile enough to be used both in feeders and on the ground. You can help them further by scattering feed near to shrubs where birds are sheltering.