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Bob Vuxinic -

Crossville, TN, United States


Blue Jays of all ages have a “bald stage” in which all capital-tract feathers, those on the head, are dropped nearly simultaneously, resulting in individuals being nearly bald for about a week. The first photo was taken on September 4th, and the second was taken 5 days later. In another 4 days, the bird looked just about normal.


Bald Stage Of A Molting Blue Jay

Bald stage of a molting Blue Jay

26 replies on “Bald stage of a molting Blue Jay”

Laura Adams says:

Last year I had a female Northern Cardinal, completely baldheaded, at my birdfeeder for several weeks. My pictures were not the greatest but I did get a few photos. I was glad to see the articles in this website that mentioned that this happened among cardinals.

Thanks for all of your news!

Barbara says:

I’m seeing a juvenile bald-headed cardinal at my feeder lately. I’m sure it’s a juvenile, as he still is doing the wing-flutter thing, begging to be fed, although he eats independently. I wonder if the unusual dry and hot conditions this summer have prompted more of this than usual. I don’t recall seeing the phenomenon in other summers.

Portia McCracken says:

There are several bald male cardinals around Greensboro NC. I was very curious when I saw the first one earlier in the spring, and then I grew alarmed when I saw more. There’s one outside my front window now, enjoying the birdbath with a number of other birds of different species.

I have a lot of blue jays here, as well, but they all appear to be in full plumage.

These bald cardinals are very worrisome, and I’m concerned their condition could spread to other species. Have there been any new developments in the research?

Chelsea Benson says:

Hi Portia, you are seeing a typical molt pattern for cardinals and jays. They will regrow their feathers soon. Read more:

Susan L says:

We have a bald female Eastern Bluebird in Hillsborough, NC. Is that the same molting pattern?

Ava Johnson says:

Hi Susan, actually no. Bluebirds don’t go through the bald stage like Cardinals and Blue Jays, so it’s probably caused by lice or mites.

Lisa Knudsen says:

I live in Fort Collins, CO. Last summer I saw a bald-headed Blue Jay drinking from the birdbath on several successive days. I figured that he or she was a youngster but I had never seen one before.

Heidi Armbruster says:

We have a bald headed Baltimore Orieole at our hummingbird feeder, do they loose feathers like the blue jays?

Thanks Bob,
and many thanks to Kent, at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, for taking the time
in explaining why two of my feeder blue jays, looked more like Steller hybrids,, almost all of their of their crown, nape and chin,, were black,, even the crests..
They were not bald, just black,,,all black..

posted one picture..

Gary Behrle says:

We have lived here in Windsor, Colorado for six years now and have fed the blue jays peanuts all that time. This is the first year that we’ve seen the bald headed jays. Such a dramatic change! Glad to know that it’s normal.

Ann says:

I have had 3 male bald cardinals at my bird feeder since at least May and it is now September. One has a gray bald head, another with a black bald head and a third that is thinner with a black bald head. All 3 also have many gray feathers mixed within the red. I have never seen this before. There are several female cardinals around and one female at least that exchanges seeds with the larger black headed male. I think these bald males have more than molting going on.

VSM says:

Ann, we also have 3 or 4 bald cardinals at our feeders-3 of which we have named. We had “Miracle” for 3 years–his mate was not bald–sadly, we have not seen him this year. But, happy, we have another pair this year and they have had off spring with full plumage. Except for remaining bald, they otherwise seem healthy. I read that there can also be a mite in their nest that causes it. I assume these cardinals have taken over the nest when our last couple left…I will post more if I find out more information. I searched here because we have now seen 2 Blue Jays with bald heads, but it may be moltong for them…

trish says:

I rescued a baby blue jay over 2 months ago and he always came back everytime he was hungry and thirsty and wanted to take a bath .I put him in a cage one day because it was a very bad storm here and we have alot of stray cats .I noticed his left wong is lower and he cant fly now but i let him out and he bounces all over to get around and he eats and drinks great still.I think he must of gotten the one wing caught in bar of cage .How can i fix it and he is molting .I want to let him free but i am afraid because he cant fly now that a cat will definaltely grab him .How can i help fix his left wing?

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Trish, Please bring the bird to a local certified wildlife rehabilitator or wildlife veterinarian. These are the only people legally allowed to treat wild birds. Handling, treating, or possessing wild birds native to North America is against federal law without such a permit. If you don’t know who your local wildlife rehabilitator is, contact your province or state’s wildlife agency.

Corinne Marin says:

May 17, a Sunday, I found over a day 13 Blue Jay feathers scattered all around my feeder and rest of house. Its too early for molting, right? No known cats here. I guess it doesnt look good for feathers’ owner.

Bill Mosko says:

Just saw our first bhnc. Kinda disappointed as we thought we discovered a new visitor in our backyard.

Judy says:

I have a friendly Stellers Jay who comes and just hangs out with me. All of a sudden, his topknot is down to two floppy long feathers and the whole back of his head is bald. Is this a normal molt? End of July 2020. His bald area looks to have white speckles. I was thinking this may be where the new feathers will grow in?

Second question: I put out peanuts for him. He spends a lot of time “shopping”. He picks up each peanut (in the shell) and puts it down and picks up the same one again or a different one. Over and over, he picks up and puts down. Finally he selects one and off he goes. Is he weighing the peanuts? Sometimes he has a really hard time deciding. And sometimes he decides to take a smaller one. I can’t understand what his “shopping” is about.

Chris says:

Hey! I saw some molting Jays this week and assumed they were simply just juvenile birds! Thank you for the information!

Joanne says:

I saw a bald blue jay in my Littleton, CO yard today. I’ve never seen one in molt before and so glad to see that it’s normal and healthy!

Mamaboo says:

Blue Jay (and other Jays) behavior – weighing and choosing peanuts-
They will always try to carry away as much as possible at a time. They will stuff down smaller unshelled nuts, till their crop won’t hold more, then put one as far back in the beak while trying yet to grab one more nut. I see this repeatedly – they cache nuts for later and the males always bring nuts for their mate or juveniles (until the juvenile knows how to get their own) – i watch them every day as they do this. You can tell which ones have experience and which ones are still learning and it is comical to watch! What I do is put out some unshelled nuts for then to put in their crop, and i leave shelled ones of all different sizes for them to hold in their beaks as they transport them. I once watched a jay store 4 unshelled nuts in his crop, and THREE more in his beak! The three nuts were two small ones and one large one. These Jays are darn smart! One more thing I see is the female comes and inspects what I put out, goes and gets the male, he does all the work transporting, and she meets him back at the place where they share them! My jays are molting now and they look so forlorn, but they are still themselves! I put out as much as I can now because they need the nutrition to grow back their feathers for the next year.

Patricia Councell says:

I was glad to find this article. This is the first year I’ve had a resident population of jays, including juveniles (north-central WI). I noticed heads were looking “scruffy” as if they had just stuck their heads completely in a birdbath. Assuming this is pre-molt I’m glad to know nothing is wrong with them. It’ll have to see if this happens to my cardinals.

Hi im kind of new to all of this. I have alot of bluejays in my pine tree out back by my kitchen window. They started coming around in springtime but it was only a couple. By summertime theres a whole family that moved into the tree…is this normal? Im talking 20-30 bluejays literally! Also red cardinals are living in the tree too and grackles. I thought bluejays were bullies to other birds? I have them trained for food so they know when i come on my porch there getting fed. I tried peanuts the no salt kinds but they wouldnt touch it. They prefer my cat food! Is this ok to feed them? I did get a bag of bird seeds that are mixed and they loved that too but i noticed they will pick cat food over other food. Also there is this 1 bluejay that has a grey head he looks so funny like that bc the rest dont look like that one. Why does it have a grey head? Sorry alot of questions im just new to birds and i love animals esp wild birds

Ava Johnson says:

Hi, to answer your first question, yes, it is normal. If you have just recently put out a bird feeder, it might take birds a while to find it, so if you have a bird feeder then that is probably why you started to see more Blue Jays. Also, you could be seeing a lot of young Blue Jays who are just starting to get their own food.
For your second question, Blue Jays are notorious for being aggressive, especially around their nest or feeders. When it comes to bird feeders, smaller birds may be intimidated and move away, but I’m not sure how aggressive they are away from food sources and their nest.
Lastly, I don’t think that feeding them cat food would have any consequences health-wise, but it’s probably better if you just stick with seed, peanuts, and other bird foods. I’m not sure about the gray-headed Blue Jay though…
Hope this helped!

Texas Bird Family says:

Young jays have gray heads. I once saw a jay stuff his crop and then fit like 5 unshells peanuts in his beak. I saw a lot of bald Blue Jays in summer.

Kim says:

I live in northern NY near a Army base, Fort Drum I have many blue jays. I saw one of my blue jays without his head feathers I was glad to read that this is normal. Now I feel better.

SMP is usually done in multiple sessions, allowing for gradual buildup and adjustment to achieve the desired look.

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