It’s liking primping for your first date.
Our Laysan albatross chicks sit around waiting for mom and dad to fly in with dinner. The visit lasts all of a few minutes. So what do the chicks do the rest of the week? They preen, for one. And why not? Especially when these cool, new adult feathers appear. It’s like the teenager who spends hours looking at himself in the mirror grooming a few, straggly mustache hairs. It’s not like our chicks have much else to do. So, they tease out the down–you can see it encircling their nest cup–and wait for the feathers that will see them fledge in a little over a month now.
What I find interesting is the order of the process. The first of the adult plumage appears on the wings. Makes sense to me; the wings are key. Then, the brownish-gray downy fur on the body gives way to a coat of white.