Male birds’ feathers become duller when wildfires burn their habitats

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A red-backed fairywren in northern Australia

Doug Barron

All fireplace and no rain makes fairywrens very boring birds. Because the local weather warms and wildfires turn into more and more frequent, these birds are coping by ditching their shiny plumage to higher mix in with the burnt panorama.

Jordan Boersma at Washington State College in Pullman was learning the physiology of the red-backed fairywren (Malurus melanocephalus), an lively little hen native to the grasslands of northern and japanese Australia, when he and his group made this discovery.

“I used to be in the midst of one other experiment when this …

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