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Dark feathers on wren

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Old Wednesday 4th March 2020, 22:31   #1
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Dark feathers on wren

Can anyone explain why a wren that feeds daily in my garden has very dark feathers on its belly,almost like a waistcoat...they seem slightly shorter than the rest of the plumage.It moves too quickly for me to get a photo.
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Old Wednesday 4th March 2020, 22:57   #2
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Hi Ruthie and welcome to the forum on behalf of the staff and moderators. There could be a couple of reasons. The wren may have some abnormal feather coloration, or it may have somehow stained the feathers in some way.
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Old Wednesday 4th March 2020, 22:58   #3
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Hi RuthieP and a warm welcome to you from me too.

I moved your post to the ID forum as I feel they may be better placed to help you with your question. I also subscribed you to the thread so you will be able to find it easily; you will get an email notification of any replies and can click on the link provided.

I'm sure you will enjoy it here and I hope to hear about all the birds you see when out and about.
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Old Thursday 5th March 2020, 08:37   #4
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Thanks for your welcome and response...I had wondered about staining ( creosote or similar) but throughout weeks of heavy rain the colour has remained constant.It helps me identify movement around the garden and frequency of visits and the bird is active and healthy...and quite confiding when live meal worms are on offer.
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Old Thursday 5th March 2020, 10:17   #5
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As Lisa says, it sounds like a case of abnormal plumage. The BTO have more information you might find interesting:
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Old Thursday 5th March 2020, 11:24   #6
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In many species of birds, the belly feathers are very dark at the base, with the normal color only occupying the tips of the feathers. So any unusual wear, or simply messiness, of the feathers, will show black in that spot.

If your bird has been scratching at a tick, or has been brooding eggs or chicks (uh, where are you located? I've been in the southern hemisphere a lot lately...) or simply has been roosting someplace uncomfortable, you may see a black "lining" that's normally hidden below the normal color.

Where are you located? (edit 2: Hampshire - I assume that means the one in England. I'm not having a good day for reading comprehension...)

What species of wren? (If you don't know, we can guess based on your location.) (edit 2 1/2: and I think in England there's only one "wren" to choose from...)


I didn't read your post #4 very carefully, did I? If it's been unchanged for weeks, it's not likely to be a temporary ruffling of the feathers. I suppose heavy wear is still possible, but that would call for some kind of explanation that I can't think of. So I agree "abnormal plumage" (likely genetic in origin) is the most likely.

Last edited by nartreb : Thursday 5th March 2020 at 11:32.
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Old Thursday 5th March 2020, 13:21   #7
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I had a female House Sparrow in the garden a few years ago in the summer that showed a dark 'band' across the belly rather like the description of your Wren. I had photos and sent these to the BTO who suggested it was feather wear due to the bird squeezing in and out of a tight nest hole and wearing off the feather tips. I wonder if this is similar with your Wren which could have been squeezing in and out of a tight roost hole every evening/morning. Hope this helps.
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