Moult is a costly but necessary process in avian life, which displays two main temporal patterns within the annual cycle of birds (summer and winter moult). Timing of moult can affect its duration and consequently the amount of material invested in feathers, which could have a considerable influence on feather structure and functionality. In this study, we used two complementary approaches to test whether moult duration and feather mass vary in relation to the timing of moult. Firstly, we conducted a comparative study between a sample of long-distance migratory passerine species which differ in moult pattern. Secondly, we took advantage of the willow warbler’s Phylloscopus trochilus biannual moult, for which it is well-known that winter moult takes longer than summer moult, to assess between-moult variation in feather mass. Our comparative analysis showed that summer moulting species performed significantly shorter moults than winter moulters. We also detected that feathers produced in winter were comparatively heavier than those produced in summer, both in between-species comparison and between moults of the willow warbler. These results suggest the existence of a trade-off between moult speed and feather mass mediated by timing of moult, which could contribute to explain the diversity of moult patterns in passerines.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Journal publication date2010

ID: 302893