Nuptial plumage, also known as breeding plumage and alternate plumage, is the plumage assumed by adult birds prior to their annual breeding season. This plumage is generally more colourful than the bird’s usual plumage, presumably in order to attract the opposite sex. Birds achieve this change by moulting their feathers, before breeding into their nuptial ‘glad-rags’, and then afterwards, returning to their usual ‘day wear’.
My photos show the change happening in the Turnstones I see so often in my local patch. The first photo (above), taken in January, shows the bird’s winter plumage. The following two photos, taken in March and April, show the moult in progress, and the final photo, taken in August, is after breeding has finished, when the bird is moulting from its nuptial plumage back to its winter, non-breeding plumage. To see these birds in their full nuptial plumage, I would have to head to their breeding grounds in Canada or Greenland, a tempting proposition but not affordable at this time!