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Phenology and duration of remigial moult in Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) and White-winged Scoters (Melanitta fusca) on the Pacific coast of North America

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By quantifying phenology and duration of remigial moult in Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata (L., 1758)) and White-winged Scoters (Melanitta fusca (L., 1758)), we tested whether timing of moult is dictated by temporal optima or constraints. Scoters (n = 3481) were captured during moult in Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington, and remigial emergence dates were determined. We provide evidence for a pre-emergence interval of 7.3 days that occurs after old primaries are shed and before new ones become visible. All age and sex classes of both scoter species exhibited a wide range of emergence dates (Surf Scoters: 26 June to 22 September; White-winged Scoters: 6 July to 21 September) suggestive of a lack of strong temporal optima for remigial moult. For both species, timing of moult was influenced by site, year, age, and sex. Relative to other waterfowl species, scoters have typical remigial growth rates (Surf Scoters: 3.9 mm·day–1; White-winged Scoters: 4.3 mm·day–1) but a long flightless period (34–49 days), in part because their relatively high wing-loading requires a greater proportion of feather regrowth to regain flight. Our data suggest that moulting scoters are not under strong selective pressure to complete moult quickly.

Keywords: Melanitta fusca; Melanitta perspicillata; Surf Scoter; White-winged Scoter; aile primaire; canard de mer; duration; durée; macreuse brune; macreuse à front blanc; mue des rémiges; phenology; phénologie; primary feather; remigial moult; sea duck

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Centre for Wildlife Ecology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada. 2: Centre for Wildlife Ecology, Simon Fraser University, 5421 Robertson Road, Delta, BC V4K 3N2, Canada. 3: Alaska Science Center, US Geological Survey, 4210 University Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508, USA. 4: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Puget Sound Assessment and Monitoring Program, 600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501, USA.

Publication date: August 11, 2012

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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