Breeding Plumage

Cattle Egret Photo by Scott Bourne

As a bird photographer, I always try to capture images of birds while they are in breeding plumage.

Most birds moult twice a year, resulting in a breeding or nuptial plumage and a basic plumage. Many species have males wearing a bright nuptial plumage while breeding and a drab eclipse plumage for some months afterward.

Breeding plumage is almost always the most brilliant, colorful plumage for many bird species. If you know the habits of the species you are targeting, you can look for them during the courtship season when birds are trying to attract mates. It is most often the males that develop bold breeding plumage, and these feathers may involve extraordinary colors or unusual shapes such as long streamers. This is also called alternate plumage, nuptial plumage, or spring plumage. In some species, breeding plumage may be worn for the entire spring and summer, while for other species it may last only a few weeks.


If you’d like to show your appreciation for this site, please consider the purchase of prints or gifts featuring Scott’s bird art, visit scottbourne.photos for more information.

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Scott Bourne is an Olympus Visionary, a professional bird/wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He is a pioneer in digital photography and was named one of the “30 most influential photographers on the Web” by Huffington Post. His photographic experience spans four decades and his bird/wildlife images have been published in more than 200 magazines and periodicals. He is also a Signed Master at Studio of Masters in China.

Scott has been a founder, co-founder, advisor or early stage investor in several technology companies such as NetRadio, Photofocus, and ViewBug.

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