Spring is the season of renewal -- even in the time of Covid-19 -- bringing with it some feelings of hope – feelings enhanced by sitting down (socially distanced) in a quiet place outdoors, and watching events in the natural world unfold. In short, being a “bird watcher”, not merely a “birder” who ticks birds off on a checklist and moves on. Birds that spent the winter with us begin to change from drab winter plumage to brighter, often distinctly different plumage – allowing us to monitor their changes from day to day as they visit our feeders. The transition results in a plumage associated with courtship and nesting. As days get longer, migrant birds return from the tropics – some to spend only a few days with us as they pass through to more northern breeding areas. Many are dressed in breeding finery, others still in a transition to it. Some birds stop to nest here along with our permanent residents.
Plumage colors of birds can change dramatically as a result of wear and molt. Flesh colors can also change in response to hormonal changes associated with environmental cues. These changes reveal a kaleidoscope of color and patterns unique to each species, sex, age cohort, and variations in the light that illuminates them.
In this “Lunch and Learn” presentation, I will use south Florida birds to illustrate this annual rainbow that comes our way and will answer questions of when, why, and how these changes occur.