Plumage (Latin: plūma "feather") refers both to the layer of feathers that cover a bird and the pattern, colour, and arrangement of those feathers. The pattern and colours of plumage differ between species and subspecies and may vary with age classes. Within species, there can be different colour morphs. The placement of feathers on a bird is not haphazard, but rather emerge in organized, overlapping rows and groups, and these are known by standardized names.
Most birds moult twice a year, resulting in a breeding or nuptial plumage and a basic plumage. Many ducks and some other species such as the red junglefowl have males wearing a bright nuptial plumage while breeding and a drab eclipse plumage for some months afterward. The painted bunting's juveniles have two inserted moults in their first autumn, each yielding plumage like an adult female. The first starts a few days after fledging replacing the juvenile plumage with an auxiliary formative plumage; the second a month or so later giving the formative plumage.
Abnormal plumages include a variety of conditions. Albinism, total loss of colour, is rare, but partial loss of colours is more common. Some species are colour polymorphic, having two or more colour variants. A few species have special types of polymorphism, as in the male ruff which has an assortment of different colours around the head and neck in the breeding season only.
Hen feathering is an inherited plumage character in domestic fowl controlled by a single gene. Plumology (or plumage science) is the name for the science that is associated with the study of feathers.
Almost all species of birds moult at least annually, usually after the breeding season, known as the pre-basic moult. This resulting covering of feathers, which will last either until the next breeding season or until the next annual moult, is known as the basic plumage. Many species undertake another moult prior to the breeding season known as the pre-alternate moult, the resulting breeding plumage being known as the alternate plumage or nuptial plumage. The alternate plumage is often brighter than the basic plumage, for the purposes of sexual display, but may also be cryptic to hide incubating birds that might be vulnerable on the nest.
Many ducks have bright, colourful plumage, exhibiting strong sexual dimorphism. However, they moult into a dull plumage after breeding in mid-summer. This drab, female-like appearance is called eclipse plumage. When they shed feathers to go into eclipse, the ducks become flightless for a short period of time. Some duck species remain in eclipse for one to three months in the late summer and early fall, while others retain the cryptic plumage until the next spring when they undergo another moult to return to their breeding plumage.
Although mainly found in the Anatidae, a few other species, including related red junglefowl, most fairywrens[a] and some sunbirds also have an eclipse plumage. In the superb and splendid fairywrens, very old males (over about four years) may moult from one nuptial plumage to another whereas in the red-backed and white-winged fairywrens, males do not acquire nuptial plumage until four years of age – well after they become sexually mature and indeed longer than the vast majority of individuals live.
In contrast to the ducks, males of hummingbirds and most lek-mating passerines – like the Guianan cock-of-the-rock or birds of paradise – retain their exuberant plumage and sexual dimorphism at all times, moulting as ordinary birds do once annually.
There are hereditary as well as non-hereditary variations in plumage that are rare and termed as abnormal or aberrant plumages. Melanism refers to an excess of black or dark colours. Erythromelanism or erythrism is the result of excessive reddish brown erythromelanin deposition in feathers that normally lack melanin. Melanin of different forms combine with xanthophylls to produce colour mixtures and when this combination is imbalanced it produces colour shifts that are termed as schizochroisms (including xanthochromism – overabundance of yellow – and axanthism – lack of yellow – which are commonly bred in cagebirds such as budgerigars). A reduction in eumelanin leads to non-eumelanin schizochroism with an overall fawn plumage while a lack of phaeomelanin results in grey coloured non-phaeomelanin schizochroism. Carotenism refers to abnormal distribution of carotenoid pigments.
The term "dilution" is used for situations where the colour is of a lower intensity overall; it is caused by decreased deposition of pigment in the developing feather, and can thus not occur in structural coloration (i.e., "dilute blue" does not exist); pale structural colors are instead achieved by shifting the peak wavelength at which light is refracted. Dilution regularly occurs in normal plumage (grey, buff, pink and cream colours are usually produced by this process), but may in addition occur as an aberration (e.g., all normally black plumage becoming grey).
In some birds – many true owls (Strigidae), some nightjars (Caprimulgidae) and a few cuckoos (Cuculus and relatives) being widely known examples – there is colour polymorphism. This means that two or more colour variants are numerous within their populations during all or at least most seasons and plumages; in the above-mentioned examples a brown (phaeomelanin) and grey (eumelanin) morph exist, termed "hepatic form" particularly in the cuckoos. Other cases of natural polymorphism are of various kinds; many are melanic/nonmelanic (some paradise-flycatchers, Terpsiphone, for example), but more unusual types of polymorphism exist – the face colour of the Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae) or the courtship types of male ruffs (Philomachus pugnax).
Albinism in birds is rare, occurring to any extent in perhaps one in 1800 individuals. It involves loss of colour in all parts including the iris of the eyes, bills, skin, legs, and feet. It is usually the result of a genetic mutation causing the absence of tyrosinase, an enzyme essential for melanin synthesis. Leucism (which includes what used to be termed as "partial albinism") refers to loss of pigments in some or all parts of feathers. A bird that is albino (from the Latin albus, "white") has white feathers in place of coloured ones on some portion of its body. A bird that is naturally white, such as a swan, goose, or egret, is not an albino, nor is a bird that has seasonally alternating white plumage.
Four degrees of albinism have been described. The most common form is termed partial albinism, in which local areas of the bird's body, such as certain feathers, are lacking the pigment melanin. The white areas may be symmetrical, with both sides of the bird showing a similar pattern. In imperfect albinism, the pigment is partially inhibited in the skin, eyes, or feathers, but is not absent from any of them. Incomplete albinism is the complete absence of pigment from the skin, eyes, or feathers, but not all three.
A completely albino bird is the most rare. The eyes in this case are pink or red, because blood shows through in the absence of pigment in the irises. The beak, legs, and feet are very pale or white. Albino adults are rare in the wild because their eyesight is poor resulting in greater risk of predation. They are likely easier targets for predators because their colour distinguishes them from their environment. Falconers have observed that their trained birds are likely to attack a white pigeon in a flock because it is conspicuous. A complete albino often has weak eyesight and brittle wing and tail feathers, which may reduce its ability to fly. In flocks, albinos are often harassed by their own species. Such observations have been made among red-winged blackbirds, barn swallows, and African penguins. In a nesting colony of the latter, three unusual juveniles—one black-headed, one white-headed, and one full albino—were shunned and abused by companions.
Albinism has been reported in all orders and in 54 families of North American birds. The American robin and house sparrow led bird species in the incidence of albinism. Albinistic white appears to replace brown pigments more often than red or yellow ones; records suggest a greater incidence in crows, ravens, and hawks than in goldfinches or orioles.
Several kinds of albinism in chickens has been described: A complete albinism controlled by an autosomal recessive gene and two different kinds of partial albinism. One of the partial albinisms is sex-linked and the other is autosomal recessive. A fourth kind of albinism severely reduce pigmentation in the eyes, but only dilutes the pigment in the plumage.
Abnormally white feathers are not always due to albinism. Injury or disease may change their color, including dietary deficiencies or circulatory problems during feather development. Aging may also turn a bird's feathers white.
Hen feathering in cocks is a genetically conditioned character in domestic fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus). Males with this condition develop a female-type plumage, although otherwise look and respond like virile males. In some breeds, one can see males that have a plumage completely similar in all aspects to that of females. The trait is controlled by a simple autosomic dominant gene, whose expression is limited to the male sex. The condition is due to an enhanced activity of the aromatase complex of enzymes responsible for estrogen synthesis. So estrogen formation in the skin is as much as several hundred-fold higher than that of normal chickens.
The black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is a small gull that breeds in much of Europe and Asia, and also in coastal eastern Canada. Most of the population is migratory and winters further south, but some birds reside in the milder westernmost areas of Europe. Some black-headed gulls also spend the winter in northeastern North America, where it was formerly known as the common black-headed gull. As is the case with many gulls, it was previously placed in the genus Larus.
The genus name Chroicocephalus is from Ancient Greek khroizo, "to colour", and kephale, "head". The specific ridibundus is Latin for "laughing", from ridere "to laugh".Eclectus parrot
The eclectus parrot (Eclectus roratus) is a parrot native to the Solomon Islands, Sumba, New Guinea and nearby islands, northeastern Australia, and the Maluku Islands (Moluccas). It is unusual in the parrot family for its extreme sexual dimorphism of the colours of the plumage; the male having a mostly bright emerald green plumage and the female a mostly bright red and purple/blue plumage. Joseph Forshaw, in his book Parrots of the World, noted that the first European ornithologists to see eclectus parrots thought they were of two distinct species. Large populations of this parrot remain, and they are sometimes considered pests for eating fruit off trees. Some populations restricted to relatively small islands are comparably rare. Their bright feathers are also used by native tribespeople in New Guinea as decorations.Egret
Egrets are herons which have white or buff plumage, and develop fine plumes (usually milky white) during the breeding season. Egrets are not a biologically distinct group from the herons and have the same build.Eurasian teal
The Eurasian teal or common teal (Anas crecca) is a common and widespread duck which breeds in temperate Eurasia and migrates south in winter. The Eurasian teal is often called simply the teal due to being the only one of these small dabbling ducks in much of its range. The bird gives its name to the blue-green colour teal.
It is a highly gregarious duck outside the breeding season and can form large flocks. It is commonly found in sheltered wetlands and feeds on seeds and aquatic invertebrates. The North American green-winged teal (A. carolinensis) was formerly (and sometimes is still) considered a subspecies of A. crecca.Feather
Feathers are epidermal growths that form the distinctive outer covering, or plumage, on dinosaurs (including birds) and possibly other archosauromorphs. They are considered the most complex integumentary structures found in vertebrates and a premier example of a complex evolutionary novelty. They are among the characteristics that distinguish the extant birds from other living groups.Although feathers cover most of the bird's bodies, they arise only from certain well-defined tracts on the skin. They aid in flight, thermal insulation, and waterproofing. In addition, coloration helps in communication and protection. Plumology (or plumage science) is the name for the science that is associated with the study of feathers.Grey plover
The grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola), known as the black-bellied plover in North America, is a medium-sized plover breeding in Arctic regions. It is a long-distance migrant, with a nearly worldwide coastal distribution when not breeding. The genus name is Latin and means relating to rain, from pluvia, "rain". It was believed that golden plovers flocked when rain was imminent. The species name squatarola is a Latinised version of Sgatarola, a Venetian name for some kind of plover.Mergini
The seaducks (Mergini) are a tribe of the duck subfamily of birds, the Anatinae. The taxonomy of this group is incomplete. Some authorities separate the group as a subfamily, others remove some genera from the group and keep others. Most species within the group spend their winters near coastal waters. Many species have developed specialized salt glands to allow them to tolerate salt water but these are poorly developed in juveniles. Some of the species prefer riverine habitats. All but two of the 20 species in this group live in far northern latitudes.
The fish-eating members of this group, such as the mergansers and smew, have serrated edges to their bills to help them grip their prey and are often known as "sawbills". Other seaducks forage by diving underwater, taking molluscs or crustaceans from the sea floor. The Mergini take on the eclipse plumage during the late summer and molt into their breeding plumage during the winter.New World quail
The New World quails or Odontophoridae are small birds only distantly related to the Old World quail, but named for their similar appearance and habits. The American species are in their own family Odontophoridae, whereas Old World quail are in the pheasant family Phasianidae. The family ranges from Canada through to southern Brazil, and two species, the California quail and the bobwhite quail, have been successfully introduced to New Zealand. The stone partridge and Nahan's partridge, both found in Africa, seem to belong to the family. Species are found across a variety of habitats from tropical rainforest to deserts, although few species are capable of surviving at very low temperatures. Thirty-four species are placed in ten genera.
The legs of most New World quails are short but powerful, with some species having very thick legs for digging. They lack the spurs of many Old World galliformes. Although they are capable of short bursts of strong flight New World quails prefer to walk, and will run from danger (or hide), taking off explosively only as a last resort. Plumage varies from dull to spectacular, and many species have ornamental crests or plumes on the head. There is moderate sexual dichromism in plumage, with males having brighter plumage.Nighthawk
A nighthawk is a nocturnal bird of the subfamily Chordeilinae, within the nightjar family, Caprimulgidae, native to the western hemisphere. The term "nighthawk", first recorded in the King James Version of 1611, was originally a local name in England for the European nightjar. Its use in the Americas refers to members of the genus Chordeiles and related genera was first recorded in 1778.Nighthawks are medium-sized birds with long wings, short legs, and very short bills. They usually nest on the ground. They feed on flying insects. The least nighthawk, at 16 centimetres (6.3 in) and 23 grams (0.81 oz), is the smallest of all Caprimulgiformes. Nightjars are sometimes referred to as goatsuckers from the mistaken belief that they suck milk from goats (the Latin for goatsucker is Caprimulgus).
In October 2018, the University of Alberta published research on the common nighthawk revealing that it travels 20,000 kilometres every year during migration between the rainforests and savannas of Brazil and its breeding grounds in northern Alberta. Nighthawks have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is cryptically coloured to resemble bark or leaves. Some species perch facing along a branch, rather than across it as birds usually do. This helps to conceal them during the day. The female lays two patterned eggs directly onto bare ground.
They are mostly active in the late evening and early morning or at night and feed on moths and other large flying insects. The bill opens very wide and has a slightly hooked upper tip.
Nighthawks are similar in most respects to the nightjars, but have shorter bills and plumage that is less soft. Nighthawks are less strictly nocturnal than many nightjars and may be seen hunting when there is still light in the sky.Peafowl
Peafowl is a common name for three species of birds in the genera Pavo and Afropavo of the Phasianidae family, the pheasants and their allies. Male peafowl are referred to as peacocks, and female peafowl as peahens. The two Asiatic species are the blue or Indian peafowl originally of the Indian subcontinent, and the green peafowl of Southeast Asia; the one African species is the Congo peafowl, native only to the Congo Basin. Male peafowl are known for their piercing calls and their extravagant plumage. The latter is especially prominent in the Asiatic species, which have an eye-spotted "tail" or "train" of covert feathers, which they display as part of a courtship ritual.
The functions of the elaborate iridescent colouration and large "train" of peacocks have been the subject of extensive scientific debate. Charles Darwin suggested they served to attract females, and the showy features of the males had evolved by sexual selection. More recently, Amotz Zahavi proposed in his handicap theory that these features acted as honest signals of the males' fitness, since less-fit males would be disadvantaged by the difficulty of surviving with such large and conspicuous structures.Quetzal
Quetzals () are strikingly colored birds in the trogon family.
They are found in forests, especially in humid highlands, with the five species from the genus Pharomachrus being exclusively Neotropical, while a single species, the eared quetzal, Euptilotis neoxenus, is found in Mexico and very locally in the southernmost United States. Quetzals are fairly large (all over 32 cm or 13 inches long), slightly bigger than other trogon species. The resplendent quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala.
Quetzals have iridescent green or golden-green wing coverts, back, chest and head, with a red belly. They are strongly sexually dimorphic, and parts of the females' plumage are brown or grey. These largely solitary birds feed on fruits, berries, insects and small vertebrates (such as frogs). Even with their famous bright plumage, they can be hard to see in their natural wooded habitats.Ruff
The ruff (Calidris pugnax) is a medium-sized wading bird that breeds in marshes and wet meadows across northern Eurasia. This highly gregarious sandpiper is migratory and sometimes forms huge flocks in its winter grounds, which include southern and western Europe, Africa, southern Asia and Australia.
The ruff is a long-necked, pot-bellied bird. This species shows marked sexual dimorphism; the male is much larger than the female (the reeve), and has a breeding plumage that includes brightly coloured head tufts, bare orange facial skin, extensive black on the breast, and the large collar of ornamental feathers that inspired this bird's English name. The female and the non-breeding male have grey-brown upperparts and mainly white underparts. Three differently plumaged types of male, including a rare form that mimics the female, use a variety of strategies to obtain mating opportunities at a lek, and the colourful head and neck feathers are erected as part of the elaborate main courting display. The female has one brood per year and lays four eggs in a well-hidden ground nest, incubating the eggs and rearing the chicks, which are mobile soon after hatching, on her own. Predators of wader chicks and eggs include mammals such as foxes, feral cats and stoats, and birds such as large gulls, corvids and skuas.
The ruff forages in wet grassland and soft mud, probing or searching by sight for edible items. It primarily feeds on insects, especially in the breeding season, but it will consume plant material, including rice and maize, on migration and in winter. Classified as "least concern" on the IUCN Red List criteria, the global conservation concerns are relatively low because of the large numbers that breed in Scandinavia and the Arctic. However, the range in much of Europe is contracting because of land drainage, increased fertiliser use, the loss of mown or grazed breeding sites, and over-hunting. This decline has seen it listed in the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).Rufous
Rufous is a colour that may be described as reddish-brown or brownish-red, as of rust or oxidised iron. The first recorded use of rufous as a colour name in English was in 1782. However, the colour is also recorded earlier in 1527 as a diagnostic urine colour.The word "rufous" is derived from the meaning of "red" in Latin and is used as an adjective in the names of many animals—especially birds—to describe the colour of their skin, fur, or plumage.Starling
Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds in the family Sturnidae. The name "Sturnidae" comes from the Latin word for starling, sturnus. Many Asian species, particularly the larger ones, are called mynas, and many African species are known as glossy starlings because of their iridescent plumage. Starlings are native to Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as northern Australia and the islands of the tropical Pacific. Several European and Asian species have been introduced to these areas as well as North America, Hawaii and New Zealand, where they generally compete for habitats with native birds and are considered to be invasive species. The starling species familiar to most people in Europe and North America is the common starling, and throughout much of Asia and the Pacific, the common myna is indeed common.
Starlings have strong feet, their flight is strong and direct, and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. Several species live around human habitation and are effectively omnivores. Many species search for prey such as grubs by "open-bill probing", that is, forcefully opening the bill after inserting it into a crevice, thus expanding the hole and exposing the prey; this behaviour is referred to by the German verb zirkeln (pronounced [ˈtsɪɐ̯kl̩n]).Plumage of many species is typically dark with a metallic sheen. Most species nest in holes and lay blue or white eggs.
Starlings have diverse and complex vocalizations and have been known to embed sounds from their surroundings into their own calls, including car alarms and human speech patterns. The birds can recognize particular individuals by their calls and are the subject of research into the evolution of human language.Tern
Terns are seabirds in the family Laridae that have a worldwide distribution and are normally found near the sea, rivers, or wetlands. Terns are treated as a subgroup of the family Laridae which includes gulls and skimmers and consist of eleven genera. They are slender, lightly built birds with long, forked tails, narrow wings, long bills, and relatively short legs. Most species are pale grey above and white below, with a contrasting black cap to the head, but the marsh terns, the Inca tern, and some noddies have dark plumage for at least part of the year. The sexes are identical in appearance, but young birds are readily distinguishable from adults. Terns have a non-breeding plumage, which usually involves a white forehead and much-reduced black cap.
The terns are birds of open habitats that typically breed in noisy colonies and lay their eggs on bare ground with little or no nest material. Marsh terns construct floating nests from the vegetation in their wetland habitats, and a few species build simple nests in trees, on cliffs or in crevices. The white tern, uniquely, lays its single egg on a bare tree branch. Depending on the species, one to three eggs make up the clutch. Most species feed on fish caught by diving from flight, but the marsh terns are insect-eaters, and some large terns will supplement their diet with small land vertebrates. Many terns are long-distance migrants, and the Arctic tern may see more daylight in a year than any other animal.
Terns are long-lived birds and are relatively free from natural predators and parasites; most species are declining in numbers due directly or indirectly to human activities, including habitat loss, pollution, disturbance, and predation by introduced mammals. The Chinese crested tern is in a critical situation and three other species are classed as endangered. International agreements provide a measure of protection, but adults and eggs of some species are still used for food in the tropics. The eggs of two species are eaten in the West Indies because they are believed to have aphrodisiac properties.The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italian: L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo) is a 1970 giallo film directed by Dario Argento, in his directorial debut. The film is considered a landmark in the Italian giallo genre. It is the first installment in the Animal Trilogy, and was followed by The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972).
Written by Argento, the film is an uncredited adaptation of Fredric Brown's novel The Screaming Mimi, which had previously been made into a Hollywood film, Screaming Mimi (1958), directed by Gerd Oswald.The film was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe award for best motion picture in 1971. The film was originally cut by 20 seconds for its US release and received a 'GP' rating, though it was later re-classified as 'PG'. It has since been released in the US uncut. Upon its release the film was a huge box office hit, grossing 1,650,000,000 Italian lira (roughly about $1 million US), twice the production cost of $500,000. The film was also a success outside of Italy, gaining €1,366,884 admissions in Spain.Whiskered tern
The whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybrida) is a tern in the family Laridae. The genus name is from Ancient Greek khelidonios, "swallow-like", from khelidon, "swallow". The specific hybridus is Latin for hybrid; Pallas thought it might be a hybrid of white-winged black tern and common tern, writing "Sterna fissipes [Chlidonias leucopterus] et Hirundine [Sterna hirundo] natam”.This bird has a number of geographical races, differing mainly in size and minor plumage details.
C. h. hybrida breeds in warmer parts of Europe and Asia. The smaller-billed and darker C. h. delalandii is found in east and south Africa, and the paler C. h. javanicus from Java to Australia.
The tropical forms are resident, but European and Asian birds winter south to Africa and the Indian Subcontinent.
This species breeds in colonies on inland marshes, sometimes amongst black-headed gulls, which provide some protection. The scientific name arises from the fact that this, the largest marsh tern, show similarities in appearance to both the white Sterna terns and to black tern.Willow ptarmigan
The willow ptarmigan () (Lagopus lagopus) is a bird in the grouse subfamily Tetraoninae of the pheasant family Phasianidae. It is also known as the willow grouse and in Ireland and Britain, where it was previously considered to be a separate species, as the red grouse. It is a sedentary species, breeding in birch and other forests and moorlands in northern Europe, the tundra of Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska and northern Canada, in particular in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the state bird of Alaska. In the summer the birds are largely brown, with dappled plumage, but in the winter they are white with some black feathers in their tails (British populations do not adopt a winter plumage). The species has remained little changed from the bird that roamed the tundra during the Pleistocene. Nesting takes place in the spring when clutches of four to ten eggs are laid in a scrape on the ground. The chicks are precocial and soon leave the nest and while they are young, both parents play a part in caring for them. The chicks eat insects and young plant growth while the adults are completely herbivorous, eating leaves, flowers, buds, seeds and berries during the summer and largely subsisting on the buds and twigs of willow and other dwarf shrubs and trees during the winter.