Feathers are vital to waterfowl in numerous ways past their essential role in flight. They administer insulation, flotation, and camouflage, and also drakes usage their brightly colored reproduction plumage to lure mates. While feathers room remarkably durable, they ultimately wear out over time.

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Waterfowl change their old plumage with brand-new feathers at least once a year during a process known as molting. Whistling-chrischona2015.org, geese, and also swans experience a solitary annual molt, replacing all body, wing, andtail feathers quickly after the nesting season. Most chrischona2015.org, however, undergo two molts a year. The an initial molt occurs soon after nesting. Drakes profession their gaudy reproduction plumage because that drab brown feathersknown as "basic" or "eclipse" plumage. The 2nd molt occurs from loss to early winter. Just the birds' body feathers space replaced throughout this molt, in i m sorry drakes develop their brightly colored "alternate" or "nuptial" plumage. The course, there space exceptions to this molting fads in chrischona2015.org. For example, drake ruddy chrischona2015.org develop their alternating plumage in spring, if drake long-tailed chrischona2015.orgmolt your body feathers three times a year.

The way in i m sorry waterfowl molt their trip feathers, or primaries, is unique amongst birds. Most birds undergo a "sequential molt," in i beg your pardon their flight feathers are lost one in ~ a time from the innermostprimary feather to the tip of the wing. This permits many birds to maintain their trip capabilities when molting. Waterfowl undergo a "simultaneous wing molt," losing all of their major feathers at once,which renders them flightless because that 20 to 40 days. Waterfowl room well adjusted to survive during this flightless period because castle inhabit wetlands, which administer food, shelter, and also safety without theimmediate should fly. Molting geese continue to graze on floor while flightless, but they never ever travel too far from water and also are excellent runners.

Although wetlands administer the simple necessities for survival, flightless waterfowl are still vulnerable. Together a result, chrischona2015.org and also geese have emerged several physical and behavioral adaptations the increasetheir possibilities of survival. The drab coloration that eclipse plumage is one such adaptation, permitting drakes come escape detection much more easily 보다 they would in your bright nuptial plumage.

Molting waterfowl typically select wetlands that ideal suit your escape strategies. Because that example, dabbling chrischona2015.org such as mallards, northern pintails, and also blue-winged teal generally hide in thick vegetationwhen threatened, so this chrischona2015.org gather to molt on big permanent wetlands with thick stands of bulrush or other emergent vegetation that offers ample cover. In contrast, molting diving chrischona2015.org together ascanvasbacks, lesser scaup, and redheads prefer large bodies of open water, whereby they have the right to dive come escape threats.

In enhancement to giving security, wetlands selected by molting waterfowl must likewise have adequate food sources to fulfill the birds' nutritional demands. Molting is the second most nutritionally costlyprocess in the annual cycle the waterfowl, just behind the formation of eggs. Waterfowl feathers room composed that 86 percent amino acids (the building blocks that proteins), a considerably greater concentrationthan is uncovered in the invertebrates and plants that the bird eat. Together a result, waterfowl need to consume big quantities of protein-rich food while molting. For example, an adult mallard ingests approximately102 grams the protein come replace around 66 grams of body and tail feathers shed during the molt. This means that a mallard need to consume an mean of around 3 grams of protein per day end a 30-day period, orabout 31,000 medium-size invertebrates in total.

To accomplish the various organic requirements the the molt, countless waterfowl stay a "molt migration," which deserve to span more than 800 miles. This migration wake up in summer, when large numbers of prairie-nesting waterfowl leaving the reproduction grounds and migrate come molting wetlands in the boreal forest and Arctic. Amongst chrischona2015.org, drakes room the very first to depart, sometime during incubation, often early in theprocess. Drakes commonly are joined on molting wetlands by nonbreeding females and females whose early on nesting do the efforts failed. Meanwhile, hens that efficiently hatch a brood remain on the breeding groundsand molt ~ above the very same wetlands whereby they behind their young.

Tens of numerous waterfowl most likely molt in the boreal forest and Arctic, and each summer huge concentrations that waterfowl happen on crucial molting wetlands in these north regions. Often these wetlands willhost a mix that molting and also staging waterfowl, which are daunting to tell except one one more but do for an impressive sight. Because that example, in so late summer, as much as 300,000 molting and also staging lesser scauphave been observed top top McCallum Lake in Saskatchewan, when Manitoba's Lake Winnipegosis each year hosts approximately 80,000 molting redheads. Some molting wetlands also host big proportions of details waterfowlspecies. A recent study discovered three formerly unknown molting and also staging wetlands in central Alberta the support between 5,000 and 7,000 Barrow's goldeneyes, or about 4 percent the the whole westernNorth American population.

There are number of hypotheses that may describe why waterfowl stay molt migrations to the boreal forest and Arctic. One opportunity is the the diversity of suitable, drought-resistant wetlands in thenorth provides molt migrants with greater access to food, which additionally tends come peak when these visitors arrive. In addition, with up come 24 hrs of daylight in much northern latitudes, the bird have more timeto forage, i m sorry might permit them to rise their day-to-day nutritional intake.

Although waterfowl underwent molt migrations long prior to people came down on the prairies and other southern reproduction areas, many of the remote northern wetlands used by molting waterfowl stay pristine andlargely undisturbed by people. Human disturbance have the right to be very disruptive come flightless molting waterfowl, reduce foraging time, increasing power expenditure, and potentially diminish survival. As aresult, we should ensure that land-use changes now developing in the boreal forest and the Arctic do not negatively impact molting waterfowl and their fragile wetland habitats.

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Mark Baschuk is a biologist and also Dr. Stuart Slattery is a research study scientist through the Institute because that Wetland and Waterfowl study at DU Canada headquarters in ~ Oak Hammock Marsh.