Sunday, April 20, 2014

Going Going Gone!‏

When we first came to the SW coast of FL 20 years ago we were mystified by the presence of a common large plover with a light breast on the beaches. Then we realized that this was the winter plumage of the black bellied plover which we had previously known only with its very dark belly along the east coast of VA during its migration to the Canadian Arctic. So this bird loses its black breast feathers in the fall, replaces them with light ones, and re-grows dark feathers in the spring. The process of molting back into a dark breast occurs in SW FL during late April and early May for most of these plovers. Apparently the dark breast is a substantial advantage in breeding, but a decided disadvantage during the rest of the year. The photos show the two extremes and the spotted stage in between as the feathers are molting. 

A spring time change in feathers occurs in many birds, so look around and notice the new breeding plumages present in many species. 

Bill Dunson 

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