Annual routines of non-migratory birds: optimal moult strategies

Z Barta, AI Houston, JM McNamara, RK Welham, A Hedenstrom, TP Weber, O Fero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


In a periodically changing environment it is important for animals to properly time the major events of their life in order to maximise their lifetime fitness. For a non-migratory bird the timing of breeding and moult are thought to be the most crucial. We develop a state-dependent optimal annual routine model that incorporates explicit density dependence in the food supply. In the model the birds' decisions depend on the time of year, their energy reserves, breeding status, experience, and the quality of two types of feathers (outer and inner primaries). Our model predicts that, under a seasonal environment, feathers with large effects on flight ability, higher abrasion rate and lower energetic cost of moult should be moulted closer to the winter (i.e. later) than those with the opposite attributes. Therefore, we argue that the sequence of moult may be an adaptive response to the problem of optimal timing of moult of differing feathers within the same feather tract. The model also predicts that environmental seasonality greatly affects optimal annual routines. Under high seasonality birds breed first then immediately moult, whereas under low seasonality an alternation occurs between breeding and moulting some of the feathers in one year and having a complete moult but no breeding in the other year. Increasing food abundance has a similar effect.
Translated title of the contributionAnnual routines of non-migratory birds: optimal moult strategies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580 - 593
Number of pages14
Volume112 (3)
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Other identifier: IDS Number: 005CS


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