Rapid or slow moult? The choice of a primary moult strategy by immature Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola in southern Africa

Abstract

Immature migrant waders have more complex patterns of primary moult than adults, but these have been described only fragmentarily. The Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola breeds in the taiga region of the Palearctic and part of the population migrates to southern Africa. We selected this population for a study of the primary moult strategies of an immature wader. After analysing the moult formulae of 674 immatures, we discuss potential factors that influence the choice of moult strategy. All moulters replaced two to six outer primaries; 91% moulted four or five. We used the Underhill–Zucchini model to estimate the timing and duration of moult in immatures replacing different numbers of primaries. A slow moult of five or six primaries, adopted by 29%, lasted on average 98–111 days, beginning on average 8–16 December. Moult of four primaries (63%) began on 6 January and averaged 73 days. A rapid moult of three primaries (7%) began on 24 January and averaged 55 days. All groups ended their moult between 19 and 28 March. GLM models showed that heavier immatures were more likely to start moulting than leaner birds. This tendency was more pronounced in November–January than in later months. The later the moult started, the fewer feathers were replaced and the faster the process. Departure time set the limit for the end of moult. We suggest the ability to choose different strategies allows immature Wood Sandpipers to adjust their moult to the variable conditions they encounter at wetlands in southern Africa.

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Acknowledgments

This study was made possible through research grants to M.R. and L.G.U. from the National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa, and the University of Gdańsk, Poland, within the Poland-South Africa Agreement in Science and Technology. M.R. was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Claude Leon Foundation. L.G.U. acknowledges support from the SeaChange Programme of the NRF. Joel Avni assisted with language correction and editing.

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Correspondence to Magdalena Remisiewicz.

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Communicated by F. Bairlein.

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Remisiewicz, M., Tree, A.J., Underhill, L.G. et al. Rapid or slow moult? The choice of a primary moult strategy by immature Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola in southern Africa. J Ornithol 151, 429–441 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-009-0473-4

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Keywords

  • Wood Sandpiper
  • Tringa glareola
  • Moult strategy
  • Southern Africa