Non-moulted primary coverts correlate with rapid primary moulting

Yosef Kiat, Ido Izhaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Time constraint is a main factor which affects the moult strategies in passerines, mainly during the first year of life. The variability of moult strategies between species is associated with the extent of the moult. In the first year of life, the extent of the moult is highly variable between species and individuals. In most passerine species, juveniles only renew some of their feathers, but the factors that govern which feathers are renewed and which are retained have been largely overlooked. Here we examine the common pattern of non-moulted primary coverts (PC) in passerines during the first-year moult cycle (post-juvenile and first-year pre-breeding moults). On the interspecific level we found that among 63 species of passerines, PCs are the least commonly moulted feather tract. For five species (Hirundo rustica, Pycnonotus xanthopygos, Prinia gracilis, Acrocephalus stentoreus and Passer moabiticus) which perform a complete post-juvenile moult, we found that the PC moult occurs over a longer period than greater coverts (GCs) and is sequential (non-simultaneous). At the intraspecific level, we found that the main difference between a partial and complete moult in Prinia gracilis is the moulting or non-moulting of the PCs. We also demonstrate that for Prinia gracilis 1) juveniles which do not moult their PCs, moult their primaries at a higher speed than those which moult their PCs and 2) area/mass ratio of PCs is lower than of GCs. These two findings may explain why many passerines skip PC renewal during the first year of life. Because the PC moult lasts a long time, forgoing this moult enables long term resource savings that allow for dealing with time constraints. Our results highlight the adaptive advantages of non-moulted PCs in cases of time constraints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-386
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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