Bald-headed Birds Bald-headed Blue Jay by Susan Holmes, Bolton, Connecticut Each year FeederWatchers report several cases of bald-headed birds, primarily Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals. In most of the cases observed in late summer and fall, the affected birds have dropped their head feathers simultaneously during molting, resulting in individuals being nearly bald for about a week. Many of these strange-looking birds may be juveniles undergoing their first prebasic molt, which produces the first winter adult plumage. For Blue Jays, this molt pattern is considered normal, and this molt pattern happens with enough frequency in Northern Cardinal populations to be considered within the normal range. See two photos of a bald-headed Blue Jay posted in the Participant Photo Gallery by Bob Vuxinic. They show the jay bald and then 4 days later, with feathers starting to grow in. Bald-headed Blue Jay by Elizabeth Mullen, Bloomfield Township, Michiganphoto © Elizathen Mullen If you notice a bald-headed bird of another species, it could be the result of an abnormal molt. Staggered feather replacement is the normal pattern for most birds. Baldness also may result from feather mites, lice, or an environmental or nutritional factor. Often in these cases, there is evidence of growths or a scabby coating on the skin. For example, Northern Cardinals have black skin, and a different color skin on the head of a bald-headed cardinal would indicate an ailment. Bald-headed Northern Cardinal by Eddie Eller, Murfreesboro, Tennessee No one knows for sure what causes baldness in birds, and the condition has not been well studied. Fortunately, in most cases new head feathers grow in within a few weeks. An interesting article on the topic of bald birds was published in the Buffalo News..