Male birds’ feathers become duller when wildfires burn their habitats

A red-backed fairywren in northern Australia

Doug Barron

All fire no rain makes fairywrens very dull birds. As the climate warms wildfires become increasingly common, these birds are coping by ditching their bright plumage to better blend in with the burnt landscape.

Jordan Boersma at Washington State University in Pullman was studying the physiology of the red-backed fairywren (Malurus melanocephalus), an energetic little bird native to the grasslands of northern eastern Australia, when he his team made this discovery.

“I was in the middle of another experiment when this …

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