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Another observation of ducks' molting/plumage timetable


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#1 Curlybird

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Posted 10 September 2009 - 06:55 PM

Okay, I'm still a rookie but I'm trying to learn what time of year most ducks have their breeding/alternate plumage and when they have their eclipse/non-breeding plumage, so that I can hopefully get photos of the male ducks in their "Sunday Best" before they go back up North (if they don't breed in So. California, where I live)

I have concluded, by viewing various photos (the ones that have dates on them) on the internet of Cinnamon, BW, and GW Teals, American Wigeons, No. Pintails, and No. Shovelers, that most ducks only have eclipse or non-breeding plumage a few mos. out of the year (July, August, and September).

Most of the photos from October, Nov, Dec, Jan, and Feb, show males in full breeding plumage.  I previously thought they only had breeding plumage during breeding season (Spring/Summer) like a lot of other birds that change plumage.

To sum up, it looks like I will be able to get photos of these species in their full breeding plumage within a couple of months from now. 

Can any of you offer your opinion about this?  Does my conclusion sound about right?



#2 lyceel

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Posted 10 September 2009 - 10:00 PM

I personally never saw the Florida Teals in anything but their breeding plumage until just a few weeks ago when the early ones started to arrive for Winter.  When I found them in January, they all had their breeding plumage already.  So, based on that, you're probably correct.

If you want a definitive source, Sibley has the breeding plumage months listed as Nov-Jun for BWTE, Oct-Jun for GWTE and CITE, Dec-May for NOSH, and Nov-Jun for NOPI.



#3 Curlybird

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 05:49 AM

Thanks!  Actually, I was looking for a reference showing exactly this information but didn't know where to look.  Is this the regular Sibley book of N. American Birds?  I don't have this but if it has this info., I'll definitely get it.  The wildlife sanctuary I go to has an Audubon Society House and a huge selection of various bird books/guides, including Sibley.  I'll pick one up this weekend.

#4 lyceel

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 09:07 AM

Yep, that's the one.  It gives the typical plumage change times by month for the species that have varying plumage.


#5 Curlybird

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 09:59 AM

Great - thanks again.  I'm going to pick one up on my lunch hour today.  I think the Sibleys is more informative than the Nat'l Geographic, which is what I have.

Actually, another reference I bought (at TJ Maxx for only $5.00!!) was an "Encyclopedia of North American Birds".  It is a very nice book, hard cover, with beautiful color photos of most of the No. American species.  It also gives a lot of info. on each bird.  Of course, the Sibleys is better but this encyclopedia is great for seeing really clear photos of the birds. 



#6 skpensfan

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 11:05 PM

Most ducks will molt in July-August(ish).  The males gain back all of their flight feathers and are in eclipse plumage.  But very soon after they are done molting, they will begin to grow in their breeding plumage.  When I band birds in August, most males are starting to get a bit of their colours (Green flecks on the heads of Mallards, etc.).  By the time they fly south, most should basically be done and be completely in breeding plumage.  So, you are right.  When the birds arrive in California, they should be looking mighty fine!  And, interestingly enough, I may have banded some of the N. Pintails that you are watching in S. California!





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