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Molt patterns, aging criteria, and molt-breeding seasonality of 8 native forest birds from the Island of Hawaiʻi

September 22, 2022

Much of our knowledge on the patterns and timing of breeding and molting come from studies of temperate region birds, yet tropical birds can have markedly different phenologies. The Hawaiian Islands support multiple endemic bird species that have evolved for millions of years in isolation to a tropical environment with minimal seasonality. We examined data from multiple studies (1994–2020) conducted across the avian annual cycle, from multiple locations, to evaluate molt patterns and establish criteria for assignment of age and sex based on the WRP, or molt-cycle age classification system designed specifically for tropical species. In addition, we describe the phenologies of molt and breeding and quantify the differences in males and females based on plumage coloration and morphometrics for 8 native species. We were able to validate the WRP tropical bird aging system as an appropriate method for aging forest birds from the Island of Hawaiʻi and separate all 8 species examined into juvenile, formative, and definitive plumages based on feather patterns and molt limits. Additionally, 2 species had distinctive second basic plumages. All 8 species examined also had extended periods of breeding and molting unlike their familial temperate counterparts, but these high energy activities are largely partitioned into separate time periods. Each species had some degree of overlap in breeding and molting, but the frequency of individuals that were simultaneously in breeding condition and molting was low with only 2 species displaying a proportion of overlap greater than 10% among all captures. Accurate aging and sexing techniques improve the quality of data from banding studies and provide important information on how species adapt to their environments.

Publication Year 2022
Title Molt patterns, aging criteria, and molt-breeding seasonality of 8 native forest birds from the Island of Hawaiʻi
DOI 10.1676/21-00062
Authors Elizabeth C. Abraham, Eben H. Paxton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Wilson Journal of Ornithology
Index ID 70239740
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center