To test the reliability of current techniques, five biologists appraised the ages of 200 quail from a random sample of wings collected during the 1952-53 hunting season in Alabama. Attempt was made to distinguish adults from juveniles, to ascertain the stage of post-nuptial and post-juvenile molts, and to estimate the age of juveniles according to days or weeks. Three 'problem' wings in this sample had molt characteristics somewhat eauallv divided between adult and juvenile classes; two wings called 'questionable' had all molt characteristics except one of either age group. A 3.5 per cent disparity occurred between investigators in their classification of adult and juvenile age groups. This included not only 'problem' and 'questionable' wings, but also 'obvious errors.' Individual differences were greater than 3.5 per cent but cancelled out. This study emphasizes the need of working with large samples of birds of a known age in order to know more concerning molt variations. Until aging techniques can be refined, it is believed that investigators should be fully familiar with existing methods and their weaknesses. Also, it appears important that reports on aging should indicate clearly the techniques used.
Additional publication details
A comparative test of the investigator as a variable in aging quail