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Also when a bird is molting into a different plumage, the exact pattern of the colors will vary depending on exactly which feathers this particular bird has shed and regrown in the new colors. So trying to identify exactly where the colors are in this case isn't very helpful.

Many birds look different as juveniles, so when they shed their first set of feathers the new ones grow in different colors and patterns. As mentioned above, some even go through several changes before they become adults. Also quite a few species have breeding and non-breeding plumage, so they look different at different times of year, with molts in between. 

One hint that you may be dealing with molting is if the colors aren't completely symmetrical, and also that birds in molting sometimes look disheveled - they may have loose downy feathers hanging out, or have pin feathers that haven't fully emerged making them look less smooth and shiny than usual. When there are really irregular or asymmetrical patterns, like a white area on one wing but not the other, that also may be leucism (the bird lacks color in some feathers that normally are colored).

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American Goldfinches also have seasonal plumage, and look quite different in breeding and non-breeding plumage; in fact at one point they were thought to be two different species! And here the Great-Tailed Grackles have two local common names; people call the males clarineros and the females zanates, and many people think they're two different species too.

All these things become clearer with experience with the specific species involved, and you'll also get a sense of what a molting bird looks like.

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