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Waterfowl Vulnerable When Molting

8-23-13 canada goose remains 043All North American birds replace their old, worn plumage with new feathers at least once a year, a process known as molting. Most birds have what is called a “sequential molt,” in which their flight feathers are lost one at a time (from each wing). This allows many birds to continue flying while molting. However, during their annual molt, waterfowl undergo a “simultaneous wing molt,” losing all of their primary wing feathers at once, preventing them from being able to fly for a month or more while their new primaries are growing in. During this period, they are extremely vulnerable, as this photograph testifies to. If you look closely at the remains of the Canada Goose’s wing on the right in the photograph (dark feathers), you’ll see that the new primaries have almost, but not quite, grown out of their sheaths, making them not yet functional. It’s apparent that this bird was unable to take flight during its molt in order to escape its predator.

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3 responses

  1. judilindsey@comcast.net

    Wow! That is amazing info!

    Thanks, Judi

    August 30, 2013 at 9:37 am

  2. Martha Coutermarsh

    Looks like a pretty VIOLENT molt! With spine bones, wing bones etc in the foreground.

    August 30, 2013 at 11:08 am

    • Yes, Martha, this was more than a molt — the goose, as I’m sure you know, was somebody’s dinner…

      August 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm

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