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Breeding seasonality and primary moult parameters of Euplectes species in South Africa

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The grassland biome in South Africa has a summer rainfall and Southern Red Bishops Euplectes orix, Fan-tailed Widows E. axillaris, White-winged Widow E. albonotatus, Red-collared Widow E. ardens and Long-tailed Widow E. progne breed from October or November to March. Primary moult starts in late March or early April. The widows with long tails (Long-tailed and Red-collared Widows) have moult durations of two months, while the widows with shorter tails (White-winged and Fan-tailed Widows) had moult durations of 1.5–1.7 months. Moult ends in late May or early June. Long-tailed Widows have rounder wings than other weaver species, possibly because their larger size affects flight aerodynamics. In the winter rainfall region, Southern Red Bishops and Yellow Bishops E. capensis start breeding after the winter rains, from August–November, and moult starts in early December. Primary moult duration in Yellow Bishops is relatively long, at 3.4 months. Yellow Bishops grow individual primary feathers at an average rate of 21.3 days per feather, while the other species moult primaries more quickly: White-winged Widow 8.1 days, Fan-tailed Widow 11.3 days, and Red-collared Widow 14.4 days. The number of primaries growing simultaneously is similar in the different species. The longer duration of primary moult of the Yellow Bishop may be related to food.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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