Male birds’ feathers become duller when wildfires burn their habitats

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A red-backed fairywren in Northern Australia

Doug Barron

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

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

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

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