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Saturday, 11 October 2014

Timing of feather moot and spring migration in white-throated Sparrows. J Exp Zool Oct, 2014

Timing of feather molt related to date of spring migration in male white-throated sparrows, Zonotrichia albicollis.


Cristobalite DA(1), Johnson KM, Jenkins KD, Hawley DM.

Author information:
1Institute for Integrative Bird Behavior Studies, Department of Biology, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.

J Exp Zool A Ecol Genet Physiol. 2014 Oct 6. doi: 10.1002/jez.1899. [Epub ahead of print]


In migratory birds, the ability to depart wintering grounds at the appropriate time is an important determinant of fitness. Understanding the regulation of this timing will be essential for predicting whether timing of bird migration keeps up with global climate change. We examined whether the timing of the late-winter molt, in which white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) replace head and body feathers in advance of mating, may constrain the timing of northward migratory departure. In an observational study, we found a significant correlation between timing of molt and the date on which free-living male white-throated sparrows disappeared from our study site during migration. The following year, we tested whether experimentally manipulating molt date by advancing photoperiod during temporary captivity would subsequently advance disappearance date once the birds were released. Sparrows that were experimentally induced to molt early disappeared from the wintering site before controls. However, the captive control birds also molted and disappeared from the site earlier than free-living controls, suggesting that the diet during captivity had played a role. In the third winter we completed the study by advancing or delaying molt using only dietary manipulation. Together, these results show that the ability to molt early in spring is related to early disappearance from the wintering site. Early molt likely has carry-over effects on reproduction and the requirements of molt may prevent populations from adjusting migration timing in response to global climate change.

© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

PMID: 25287905 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

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