Immature Song Sparrow Sporting a Messy Look

/, Little Emigration Canyon, Morgan County, Song Sparrows, Utah/Immature Song Sparrow Sporting a Messy Look

Messy looking immature Song SparrowMessy looking immature Song Sparrow – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Birds aren’t always neat looking, feathers wear, birds molt and young birds transitioning from their juvenal plumage into adult plumage can look quite disheveled or messy.

I spotted a preening sparrow high up on a bush last week while up in the Wasatch Mountains and when I was able to put my lens on it I could see how messy its plumage was, it was messy enough that I didn’t feel 100% confident in my identification of immature Song Sparrow as the species and later asked a friend, fellow birder, photographer and bird guide, Mark Stackhouse,  what he thought it was and he agreed with my ID. His initial response of “It’s sure a ratty-looking beast” still cracks me up. It is ratty looking.

Even though the immature Song Sparrow that I photographed had such messy plumage I am okay with that because I like sharing what I see in the field and sometimes that means they aren’t just “pretty pictures”, at times it means sharing a view of a bird that isn’t often seen unless the person is an ornithologist, bird biologist, researcher, birder or bird photographer.

Life is good.



  1. Elephants Child August 7, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    A classic ‘bad feather day’. Love it.

  2. April Olson August 7, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Sometimes when juveniles do not get the right amount of food or nutrition in the wild their feathers are weaker and look ratty until they molt, hopefully they get the proper nutrition and their feathers come in nice and healthy.

  3. Pepe Forte August 7, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Messy is cool. Great pic Mia. Thx.

  4. Utahbooklover August 7, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Nice image of a scruffy-looking juvenile! Thanks for posting.

  5. Patty Chadwick August 7, 2017 at 8:36 am

    That is a scrofulous looking feather do…almost as
    bad as my own hair do most of the time!

  6. Laura Culley August 7, 2017 at 7:20 am

    HAHA! Can you hear his/her mom saying “Preen your feathers young man/lady! (Comb your hair!”)? But there’s that other thing that majestic thing doesn’t always work! LOL!

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