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moulting robin

What is moulting?

Moulting is the name given to the process that takes place when birds shed their old feathers to make space for new plumage.

How long a bird will take to moult, and the length of time their moult takes is dependent on the species, age and time of year. 

Some birds moult all of their feathers in one go over the course of a few weeks, while others shed their old feathers gradually over the course of an entire year! 

When do birds moult?

  • Seasonally - birds lose their summer feather in time for their winter plumage and vice versa, this allows them to cope with fluctuating temperatures.
  • After Breeding - birds moult during the period of recovery after rearing their young. It takes a lot of energy to replace feathers and at this time, food is abundant - which is perfect!
  • As they become adults - juvenile body feathers are moulted at the end of summer to make way for adult feathers.

Is moulting painful for birds?

If a bird is having a particularly 'bad feather day' during their moult, then they might experience some pain or behavioural changes. New feathers can be a little sensitive and dry skin can become itchy or irritated. If you have pet birds who moult, you'll probably notice they're a little more uncomfortable or moody than they normally are. 

How to care for a moulting bird?

  • Let it sleep/rest as much as possible.
  • Don't touch, pet or pull on the bird's feathers.
  • Keep the bird at a comfortable temperature, it can become chilly as it loses its feathers.

Bird moulting coincides with their disappearance from our gardens. So, if you're wondering why your garden is suddenly quiet, there's no need to worry - the birds are moulting and getting ready for the winter months ahead!