Stable isotopes reveal the common winter moult of central rectrices in a long‑distance migrant songbird

Frédéric Jiguet, Kevin J. Kardynal, Markus Piha, Tuomas Seimola, José Luis Copete, Michel Alexandre Czajkowski, Ron Efrat, Simonas Minkevicius, Marko Rakovic, Michał Skierczyǹski, Keith A. Hobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


By analysing the deuterium concentration in the scapulars and rectrices (δ2Hf) of breeding and spring migrating Ortolan Buntings (Emberiza hortulana), we found a high correlation attesting that spring body and central rectrices have grown in similar isotopic environments. Furthermore, we failed to find a correlation between δ2Hf of the rectrices and the amount-weighted growing season precipitation δ2Hp of sites where we captured the birds. Winter-grown body coverts and rectrices displayed similar probabilistic assignments to origin. Further examination of 76 tails of breeding birds captured in Finland in May–June confirmed that breeding birds wear recently moulted central rectrices. The body coverts are known to moult during the winter partial moult in that species, but the rectrices have been reported to moult only once a year, during the complete post-breeding moult occurring on the breeding grounds in summer. Here, we reveal the common replacement of the central pair in winter, as well. The winter tail moult could occur beyond the central pair in some individuals, but this has still to be confirmed or refuted, by, e.g., further isotopic investigations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1077-1085
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
  • deuterium
  • Emberiza hortulana
  • moulting strategy
  • Ortolan Bunting
  • tail feather

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