Spring means mating season for many birds, and to be at their best their feathers change to more vivid colors, their breeding plumage in other words. Here are a few photos of this phenomenon taken at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge within the past two weeks.
As its name implies, the Black-bellied Plover displays a black belly in breeding colors. Normally its belly is white.
Black-bellied Plover in breeding plumage.
The Willet is of a gray dull color when it is not breeding, otherwise it is mottled brown and much more noticeable.
Willet in breeding plumage.
Incidentally, in the 19th century people used to eat Willet eggs and meat for food, just like chickens. That brought this bird almost to extinction until the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 stopped that practice. Now it is abundant again and very striking when it flies with blank and white stripes on its wings.
Willet preparing to fly.
The Great Egret is always white, but during breeding season it shows some green color on its face and it sports long plumes of feathers. Those airgrettes used to adorn ladies’ hats in the 19th century. That fashion craze led to a serious decline in egret population until the fad was eventually banned.
Great Egret with a successful jab at a fish. Note the green breeding color on its face, and the feather plumes.