Feather moult and bird appearance are correlated with global warming over the last 200 years

Y. Kiat, Y. Vortman, N. Sapir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global warming alters various avian phenological processes, including advanced reproduction and migration schedules. In birds, individual appearance is largely determined by plumage, influencing, for example, bird attractiveness, social status and camouflage. Juveniles of most passerine species replace their nest-grown plumage during the first months of life, a process that is called post-juvenile feather moult. Using data from ten natural history collections, we show that the extent of the post-juvenile moult has increased significantly over the last 212 years (1805–2016), a trend that is positively correlated with the temperature of the environment. Therefore, it seems that birds replaced more feathers under warmer conditions, causing juveniles to appear more similar to adult birds. Moreover, in several species, we describe a male–female switch in the extent of moult, with females currently replacing more feathers than males compared to the past. These results demonstrate different biological responses to climate warming by different phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2540
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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