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Data from: Do seaducks minimise the flightless period?: inter- and intra-specific comparisons of remigial moult


Viain, Anouck et al. (2015), Data from: Do seaducks minimise the flightless period?: inter- and intra-specific comparisons of remigial moult, Dryad, Dataset,


Remigial moult is one of the crucial events in the annual life cycle of waterfowl as it is energetically costly, lasts several weeks, and is a period of high vulnerability due to flightlessness. In waterfowl, remigial moult can be considered as an energy-predation trade-off, meaning that heavier individuals would minimise the flightless period by increasing feather growth rate and energy expenditure. Alternatively, they could reduce body mass at the end of this period, thereby reducing wing-loading to increase flight capability. We studied timing of remigial moult, primary growth rates, flightlessness duration, and the pattern of body mass variation in 5 species of captive seaducks (Melanitta fusca, M. perspicillata, Clangula hyemalis, Histrionicus histrionicus, and Somateria mollissima) ranging in size from 0.5 to 2.0 kg. Their feather growth rates weakly increased with body mass (M0.059) and no correlation was found at the intra-specific level. Consequently, heavier seaduck species and especially heavier individuals had a longer flightless period. Although birds had access to food ad libidum, body mass first increased then decreased, the latter coinciding with maximum feather growth rate. Level of body mass when birds regained flight ability was similar to level observed at the beginning of remigial moult, suggesting they were not using a strategic reduction of body mass to reduce the flightlessness duration. We suggest that the moulting strategy of seaducks may be the result of a compromise between using an intense moult strategy (simultaneous moult) and a low feather growth rate without prejudice to feather quality. Despite the controlled captive status of the studied seaducks, all five species as well as both sexes within each species showed timing of moult reflecting that of wild birds, suggesting there is a genetic component acting to shape moult timing within wild birds.

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