Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 657–665 | Cite as

Migration distance and breeding latitude correlate with the scheduling of pre-alternate body moult: a comparison among migratory waders

  • Pedro M. LourençoEmail author
  • Theunis Piersma
Original Article


Moult is an important maintenance activity that should be carefully timed within the annual cycle. Many birds perform a pre-alternate moult of body feathers some time prior to the breeding season. In migrants, the timing of the pre-alternate moult coincides with the migration from wintering to breeding areas. In this study, we used visual plumage scores collected on the Continental Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa limosa in Portugal and The Netherlands to establish that the pre-alternate body moult of these birds during the northward migration between West Africa and The Netherlands takes place only in staging areas in the Iberian peninsula from late January to late February. A comparison of the moult strategy of these godwits with that of 20 other migratory wader populations (13 species) revealed that the former had a rather uncommon moult schedule which was more characteristic of populations with rather short migrations that breed at lower latitudes. We argue that this unusual moult schedule can be explained by a combination of ecological opportunity and proximate and ultimate trade-offs (hormonal incompatibly and maximization of plumage quality vs. time spent on migration, respectively).


Breeding plumage Limosa limosa Migration Pre-alternate moult Staging period Trade-off 


Zugstrecke und geographische Breite des Brutgebiets korrelieren mit dem Zeitpunkt der Pränuptialmauser. Ein Vergleich zwischen ziehenden Limikolen Die Mauser ist eine wichtige Maßnahme zur Erhaltung der Gefieders, die sorgfältig in den Jahreslauf eines Vogels eingepasst sein muss. Viele Vögel durchlaufen einen Wechsel der Körperfedern in einer Pränuptialmauser vor Beginn der Brutsaison. Bei Zugvögeln fällt das in die Zeit des Zugs vom Überwinterungs- ins Brutgebiet. Mithilfe eines visuellen Score für den Mauserzustand, aufgenommen in Portugal und in den Niederlanden, stellen wir zuerst fest, dass die Pränuptialmauser bei der Uferschnepfe (Limosalimosalimosa) während des Nordzugs zwischen Westafrika und den Niederlanden ausschließlich an Rastplätzen auf der Iberischen Halbinsel vom späten Januar bis in den späten Februar hinein stattfindet. In einem Vergleich mit 20 anderen Populationen ziehender Limikolen von 13 Arten fanden wir, dass das von den Uferschnepfen gezeigte Muster des Mauserzeitpunkts tatsächlich ungewöhnlich ist und charakteristisch für Populationen mit eher kurzen Zugstrecken, die in geringeren geographischen Breiten brüten. Wir argumentieren, dass dies erklärt werden kann mit einer Kombination aus ökologischer Opportunität und proximaten und ultimaten trade-offs (hormonelle Inkompatibilität und Maximierung der Gefiederqualität gegenüber der auf den Zug verwendeten Zeit).



We would like to thank all the landowners, both in Portugal and in Friesland, and also It FryskeGea and Staatsbosbeheer for allowing us access to their fields. Phil Battley, Peter Pyle, Gregor Scheiffarth and two anonymous reviewers provided many useful comments on the manuscript. PML was funded by the Portuguese ‘Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia’ through grants SFRH/BD/21,528/2005 and SFRH/BPD/84,237/2012. TP is supported by BirdLife Netherlands and the Netherlands’ chapter of the World Wide Fund for Nature through the Chair in Global Flyway Ecology.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar (CESAM)/Museu Nacional de História Natural e da CiênciaUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Animal Ecology Group, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary StudiesUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Marine EcologyNIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea ResearchDen Burg, TexelThe Netherlands

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