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Author: Marks, Jeffrey S.
Year: 1993
Title: Molt of Bristle-tighed Curlews in the northwestern hawaiian islands
Journal: Auk
Volume: 110
Issue: 3
Pages: 573-587
Keywords: Bristle-tighed Curlew; Numenius tahitiensis; molt; northwestern hawaiian islands

Abstract: I studied molt of Bristle-thighed Curlew (Numenius tahitiensis) on Laysan island in the Northwestern Hawaiian island from 1988-1991. Adult curlews underwent a complete prebasic molt between August and December. Duration of primary molt was about 92 days, which is rapid compared with other shorebirds that molt in tropical and southern latitudes. Adults replaced large numbers of primaries and secondaries simultaneously, and about 50% of the birds became flightless during molt. The prealternate molt began in winter and ended in early spring; it involved the body feathers and variable numbers of rectrices but no remiges. Juveniles molted body feathers and some rectrices during their first autumn and winter but did not replace their juvenal primaries until the spring and summer of their second calendar year. Second-year curlews began replacing there new first beasic primaries in late summer, in some cases before the other juvenal primaries has been dropped. The delayed first prebasic primary molt is probably an adaptation allowing inexperienced birds to devote energy expenditure in their first winter to obtaining food rather than to molting remiges. Because second-year birds remain on the wintering grounds throughout the year and do not prepare for migration, there is no selection against replacing new primaries. Unlike most shorebirds, adult Bristle-thighed Curlews gained mass steadily throughout the autumn and winter. Their rapid prebasic molt in autumn may be an adaptation to allow the birds ample time to build up fat reserves during winter. I suggest that the absence of rich intertidal feeding areas and the frequency of winter storms make it difficult for curlews to take on large fat stores in short time periods as do species that winter on continental coasts. The lack of predators and the small size of remote oceanic islands obviate the need for curlews to maintain peak flight efficiency, allowing birds to become flightless during molt in autumn and to carry increasingly large fat stores throughout the winter.