(noun) The feathers of a bird, including down, wings and body feathers and their distinctive markings or coloration patterns.
Plumage is often used to describe a bird’s different colorations at different times of the year, such as brighter, bolder colors during the breeding season (breeding plumage) and more muted, subtle colors during winter months (winter plumage). Many bird species molt one or more times a year, changing their plumage as new feathers emerge. Plumage can also vary depending on a bird’s gender and age. Some birds of prey, for example, have juvenile plumage for several years until they are fully mature.
Plumage is a valuable identification characteristic for birders to use. A bird’s colors, markings and feather patterns are often the easiest way to make a positive identification.