Gwendolen Wilde and Stephen Crowbert are in disarray, as they head into the height of the molting season. I went into the enclosure this morning to 1) clean up; 2) change the water; and 3) take some photos. Stephen can barely tolerate one of these behaviors, all three were insufferable, as you can see here:

Stephen Crowbert agitated at the goings-on in his territory

Stephen Crowbert agitated at the goings-on in his territory

Molting makes birds, including our favorite pair, very cranky. It takes a lot of energy to replace every feather, which crows do in late summer/early fall. (Other birds can molt two times a year, donning breeding plumage in the spring and discarding it in the fall once the kids are raised and out of the nest.) In addition, molting degrades flying ability, which can make birds feel vulnerable.  Some actually hide during the process. Certain waterfowl do a massive molt and lose the ability to fly altogether for a couple of weeks. Cornell University’s site All About Birds has gobs more information.

Gwen and Stephen are not the most easy-going pair under the best of circumstances, but during molting season, they are more sensitive to changes in their environment. My insistence on moving sticks, picking up old boxes and leftover chicken bones solicited honks of irritation.

For those who are wondering why the enclosure was littered with boxes, we sometimes put food in old cereal or cracker boxes to make the birds work a bit for their meal. Animal experts call this “enrichment;” Super Hub and I call it “revenge.” In any case, it makes our corvid pair think a bit. Emphasis on a bit, since they usually manage to break into whatever container we provide in no time.

For some reason, Stephen molts quicker than Gwen. His hormones may shift earlier since he does not have chicks to take care of (or, as happened this year, at least the potential).

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So while Mr. Crowbert is cranking through the process, Gwen is making more of an effort to maintain her looks.

Gwen molting

Gwen molting

Otherwise, the neighborhood Cooper’s Hawk appears to be maintaining a respectful distance. I saw her on the way to work last week, but apparently she’s found a more readily accessible source of food.

We are beginning to settle into the fall routine.