Post-juvenile and post-breeding moult of Savi’s Warblers Locustella luscinioides in Portugal.
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We describe the sequence and extent of the complex and little understood post-juvenile and post-breeding moults of Savi’s Warblers Locustella luscinioides. In contrast to previous studies, the post-juvenile moult occurred in at least 44% of the birds, 5% of which moulted some or all tertials and greater coverts. The timing of overlap between the filling and the post-juvenile moults, and the fact that later-moulting birds had no post-juvenile moult, strongly suggests that the moult extent is dependent on fledging date. From July onwards, all adult males overlapped breeding and moult, whereas only 11% of the females did so. The start of moult varied from 6 June to 25 August, and was significantly earlier in males. Only 18% of the birds completed the moult, whereas the remaining individuals retained a variable number of inner primaries and/or secondaries. Interestingly, not only was the number of retained primaries positively associated with the date of moult, but so too was the primary number of birds in which the moult started. We view this as an adaptation allowing the replacement of the most important feathers for flight when the time available for moult is short. Body condition did not vary with the progress of moult when date was taken into account, but fat reserves still tended to decrease and then increase. The body condition was correlated positively with the wing raggedness, so Savi’s Warblers do not compensate for an increasing wing load during moult.