Using stable isotope analysis to determine the winter moult extent in migratory birds: the complex moult of Savi’s Warblers Locustella luscinioides.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Patterns of feather wear in birds captured in spring have traditionally been analysed to describe the extent of winter moult in long-distance migrants. However, the interpretation of feather wear may be rendered extremely difficult due to long moult periods, by the progress of the season, and by the existence of complex moult patterns. Here, stable isotope analysis is used to determine the origin of the wing feather generations present in Savi’s warblers Locustella luscinioides captured in Portugal. Carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen isotope ratios of feathers of known European origin differed significantly from those known to have grown in Africa. A discriminant analysis, in which 91.1% of the cross validated samples were correctly classified, was used to determine the origin of tail and wing feathers collected from birds caught when they returned to the breeding quarters. The interpretation of feather-wear generally agreed with the stable isotope analysis, but some inconsistencies were identified. The extent of winter moult in Savi’s warblers is described and its moult strategy discussed.


  • Julio Neto
  • Jason Newton
  • Andrew G. Gosler
  • Christopher M. Perrins
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-124
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch