Cardinal - USFWSAt this time of year, you might start seeing something strange at your bird feeder: bald birds.  Blue jays and cardinals are the most commonly reported bald birds, but it can happen to any number of common backyard species.

Ornithologists aren’t 100 percent sure what is going on but there are several theories.  Baldness can be caused by skin mite infestation.  Birds can’t groom their own heads, which makes that area a haven for mites.  A bad mite infestation can cause a bird to lose its feathers.  So can malnutrition or severe stress.

Balding could also simply be a rapid molting of feathers.  At this time of year, birds normally shed out their old feathers and grow new ones.  Usually it’s not all at once in one part of the body, but it seems that in the case of bald birds, that could be what’s happening.  Judging by the fact that most bald birds are observed to survive their baldness and completely re-grow their feathers, the rapid molt theory probably explains most cases.

Find out how to help birds (bald or otherwise) on our Gardening for Wildlife website.

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Published: June 9, 2009