A mind’s eye Red-winged Blackbird (male) is jet black with yellow-and-scarlet epaulets – the belligerent, noisy harbinger of spring in much of North America. Never mind that it's not until a bird’s third year that its springwear is impeccable (see here for age-related variation in seasonal plumage) -- at any age, in fall, a male redwing is nowhere near so immaculate, its tuxedo stained. (But in a good way, as these pictures, taken today at the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, show. Click to see the delicate patterning):
The birds have molted during the summer, and the new feathers have buff, almost gilt edges.
After a fall and winter of redwing rambunctiousness, the pale edges wear off, resulting in the apparent monochrome perfection (not including the epaulets) we see when the birds return.