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Is this a young goldfinch or another bird?  The black and white where yellow should be, made me think it was a young one getting his colors.  Picture taken yesterday in Southwest Wisconsin.

Gold Finch-1.jpg

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It occurs to me that whenever I see a bird rendered particularly unattractive by molt, that it's almost always a male.  Obviously that doesn't apply to species where the sexes look the same.  This male AMGO reminded me that I see far more male Bald-Headed Cardinals and Patchy Eastern Bluebirds than female ones.

Is it just me, or does it seem that way to anyone else?  Is there a research grant or doctoral thesis available to a Young Birder?

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3 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

It occurs to me that whenever I see a bird rendered particularly unattractive by molt, that it's almost always a male.  Obviously that doesn't apply to species where the sexes look the same.  This male AMGO reminded me that I see far more male Bald-Headed Cardinals and Patchy Eastern Bluebirds than female ones.

Is it just me, or does it seem that way to anyone else?  Is there a research grant or doctoral thesis available to a Young Birder?

That's a very interesting theory. I haven't thought of that before. It would take quite a bit of research to work on species that aren't sexually dimorphic such as Blue Jays.

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31 minutes ago, akiley said:

That's a very interesting theory. I haven't thought of that before. It would take quite a bit of research to work on species that aren't sexually dimorphic such as Blue Jays.

Start with the dimorphs first.  If the theory pans out there, only then tackle the non-dimorphics.

But I don't even regard it as a theory at this point, just an personal observation.

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3 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

It occurs to me that whenever I see a bird rendered particularly unattractive by molt, that it's almost always a male.  Obviously that doesn't apply to species where the sexes look the same.  This male AMGO reminded me that I see far more male Bald-Headed Cardinals and Patchy Eastern Bluebirds than female ones.

Is it just me, or does it seem that way to anyone else?  Is there a research grant or doctoral thesis available to a Young Birder?

Fascinating observation, Charlie. Now that I think of it, I really did observe, but not question, that point.

I really don't know much about molts, but it might have to do with many factors. In many species, the males are the only ones with the colorful plumages, and the female is nearly the same year-round. The nonbreeding plumage of males may also very similar to the female year-round plumage. I also observed that adult female plumages are usually similar to juvenile plumages.

This brings up some points. I just think that in many cases, it's our perception that brings this observation. For example, if a female American Goldfinch was molting in the OP's post, it "almost" would have been looking the same. Consider this image I found on the internet that seems like the female goldfinch is going through breeding/nonbreeding plumage molt: https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-female-american-goldfinch-on-feeder-in-spring-plumage-molt-75048176.html. Note that the bird looks almost the same as a "normal" bird would. This is quite interesting. So maybe many of the birds on this forum and from your personal observations were just ones that look odd and that you caught your eye on. I would not really catch my eye on a female goldfinch molting. I would think it is pretty much normal and ignore it. However, if I saw the bird the OP saw, I would really be interested, you know? And my observation might have to do with females between seasons and juvenile-female molt. A juvenile-male molt and a molt of males between seasons are usually easier to catch my eye on.

As the case for cardinals, I still think it has to do a little with what I was talking about, but it might have to do with hormones as well.

These were just my thoughts - they definitely don't have to be correct. :classic_biggrin:

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I don't think I've seen a bald female cardinal, although I see males frequently.  I don't think it's a question of female 'adult' plumage matching juvenile, at least not in this case.  I notice a bald female regardless of what the outgoing and incoming feathers look like.  I just don't see females dropping an entire group of feathers at one time.

Or look at the male goldfinch above.  You'd notice those patchy areas no matter what the surrounding feathers looked like.  There's no confusing the new with the old because there just ain't no feathers there 'tall!

Again, this is all just casual speculation on my part.  If anybody knows a molt expert, I'd love to run this by him / her.

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