Moult of three Palaearctic migrants in their West African winter quarters
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- Salewski, V., Altwegg, R., Erni, B. et al. J Ornithol (2004) 145: 109. doi:10.1007/s10336-004-0020-2
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Some theories about moult strategies of Palaearctic passerine migrants assume that birds adapt timing of moult to environmental conditions such as rainfall on their African wintering grounds. Species wintering in the northern tropics should limit moult to the period shortly after their arrival at the end of the rainy season. Passerine migrants wintering in West Africa should also moult more rapidly compared to related species or conspecific populations that moult elsewhere. We investigated the moult of melodious warblers Hippolais polyglotta, willow warblers Phylloscopus trochilus and pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca wintering in Comoé National Park, Ivory Coast, between October 1994 and April 1998. In contrast to previous studies we did not restrict our analyses to moult of flight feathers but also included moult of body feathers. The results differed partially from the general assumptions of previous authors. Melodious warblers moulted twice: a complete moult shortly after their arrival, and a moult of body feathers and in some cases some tertials and secondaries in spring. Willow warblers moulting flight feathers were found between December and March with the majority moulting in January and February. Primary moult was not faster compared to populations moulting in central Africa and South Africa. Body feather moult varied strongly among individuals with birds in heavy moult between December and April. Pied flycatchers moulted body feathers and tertials between January and April. Birds with growing feathers were found throughout the whole period including the entire dry season. Moult strategies are thus not readily related to a few environmental factors in general and our results show that factors other than mere resource availability during certain times on the wintering grounds are likely to govern the timing of moult.