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Waterfowl In Eclipse Plumage

9-9-16-revised-wood-duck-eclipse-20160904_3910Most ducks shed their body feathers twice each year. Nearly all drakes lose their bright plumage after mating, and for a few weeks resemble females. This hen-like appearance is called the eclipse plumage and provides drakes with the ability to camouflage themselves. The necessity for waterfowl not to be seen by predators at this time is great, for this is when ducks undergo a “simultaneous” wing molt – losing all their wing feathers at the same time. It takes a month or so to replace these feathers, and during this time they are completely flightless. As soon as drakes can fly again in late summer, they begin a second molt and gradually develop their breeding plumage as fall progresses.

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4 responses

  1. mariagianferrari

    Does this only happen with waterfowl, or do you know if other types of birds do this as well? Very interesting! Thanks!

    September 9, 2016 at 9:13 am

    • All birds molt, but to my knowledge ducks and geese are the only ones that molt ALL of their wings feathers at the same time!

      September 9, 2016 at 9:57 am

  2. For goodness sake – how interesting! I knew about the molting (from “Make Way for Ducklings”), but I did not know about the eclipse plumage.
    By the way, Mary, I just received 5 of your books for children, and my 5-year-old granddaughter is really enjoying them! What wonderful photos!
    On the other hand, the book you mentioned a couple of weeks ago, about mushrooms, turns out to be for 5-8 graders, so it’s over her head by a lot, but interesting for her parents and me. I ended up getting her “A Pocket Naturalist Guide” on mushrooms, which is quite accessible, has wonderful pictures, and can be carried along with us on walks. She likes it (as do the rest of us). So… once you’ve done all the kids books on animals that you’ve got in mind, mushrooms are waiting . . .
    Thanks for all these wonderful resources! – Dell

    September 9, 2016 at 11:02 pm

  3. Hi Dell, Thanks so much for letting me know about the mushroom book I suggested — so sorry it was too advanced, but glad you found something appropriate! Thank you for purchasing my books!

    September 10, 2016 at 7:42 am

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