We examined the timing and intensity of body molt in relation to stage of remige growth for postbreeding adult male Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) off the coast of northern Alaska. During this period, remige and rectrix feathers are molted simultaneously with body feathers during the prebasic molt, which results in a period of increased energetic and nutritional demands. We collected birds from late July through mid-August and recorded intensity of molt in eight regions: head and neck, back and rump, greater coverts, lesser coverts, flank and sides, breast, belly, and tail. Using nonlinear regression, we estimated the peak intensity and variation for each region in relation to ninth primary length. We found little evidence of molt in the head and neck region. The greater and lesser coverts, and back and rump reached peak molt intensities earliest and were followed by tail, breast, and belly. Molt intensity in the flank and side region was highly variable and indicated a more prolonged molting pattern in relation to other regions. While body molt occurs simultaneously with wing molt, we found that molt among regions occurred in a staggered pattern. Long-tailed Ducks may employ this staggered molting pattern to minimize the energetic and nutritional requirements of molt.
Additional publication details
Body molt of male long-tailed ducks in the nearshore waters of the north slope, Alaska