do birds go grey with age

Do Birds Go Grey With Age?

Mammals’ hair eventually turns gray because as they get older, the pigments in their roots stop producing new growth. While gray hair is typically associated with aging in humans, in certain species it is a sign of maturity and a positive attribute. For instance, dominant male gorillas are referred to as silverbacks because of the distinctive grey hair that covers their backs.

Most birds in the wild will never live to an age where they would be deemed old enough to turn gray. Is this the cause of the uncommon sightings of grey birds?

It’s not. Actually, researchers have found that birds’ feathers are colored by more than just pigments, which prevents them from going gray. The range of colors seen in birds is caused by light reflecting off protein in their feathers at various wavelengths. Birds can regulate the nanostructure of their feathers as they age to prevent greying and maintain their ability to recognize one another.

It’s unlikely that a bird you’ve seen that appears to be greying with patches of light-colored feathers is doing so because of advanced age. It is likely that the bird you observed is leucistic, and the reason for these anomalies in its feathers is a genetic mutation.

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However, if birds experience less noticeable greying than mammals, it could be because pigments, rather than the microscopic structure of the feathers, produce the colors in birds’ plumage by reflecting light at different wavelengths.

Indeed, a variety of birds, such as robins and jackdaws, can also turn grey. There is even evidence that greying birds are more desirable partners, possibly as a result of the significance of experience in nesting success.

It could indicate a deterioration in physical state, but it can also be a sign of dominance (consider a silverback gorilla).


Do Robins go grey with age?

If the colours were formed using pigments created from the bird’s diet, the feather colour would fade over time. However, since nature has developed a way to create the colours through structural changes, any nanostructure will remain intact, explaining why birds never go grey as they age.

What do birds do when they get old?

As birds age, they tend to have a decrease in physical activities as their energy levels go down. Signs of aging can include weight loss, less energy, and difficulty preening. Older birds may also produce fewer offspring and die more readily.

What do birds look like when they get old?

Even as they age, most bird species lack physical signs of getting old—their beaks don’t wrinkle, and their feathers don’t thin out or go gray. “Usually, you can’t tell the bird is old just by looking at it,” says Kenn Kaufman, field editor for Audubon magazine.

Do all animals go grey with age?

Without any melanin, our hair turns colorless, which means it appears white/gray. Other animals don’t have any differentiation between body-hair and head-hair and they seem to be able to maintain their melanin-producing genes irrespective of age. This is why their hair doesn’t go gray.