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This approach works fine on a casual basis but is inadequate for detailed analysis of molt. At the heart of the Humphrey-Parkes system is the concept that all birds have a basic plumage, and many birds also have an alternate plumage.
These are often but not always analogous to winter and summer plumages, respectively. In the Humphrey-Parkes system this is called the alternate plumage because the birds spend only a small part of the year in these brighter feathers. This plumage is called the basic plumage. An advantage of the Humphrey-Parkes system is that it gives the ability to describe molting and plumage patterns throughout the life of a bird. The ageing section, below, describes this process using the Herring Gull as an example.
An approach to the study of molts and plumages. Auk — Some species acquire their adult plumage in a single year. This chart illustrates molting and plumage nomenclature under the Humphrey-Parkes system.
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The four-year development of a Herring Gull from juvenile to adult is shown on the right. Note that molting periods cover a range as long as 4 months, are specific to the Herring Gull, and are approximations only.
Some birds will start molting earlier and others later. How often do birds molt? This varies by species, but almost all birds fall into one of the following three categories:. If you really enjoy studying birds, careful observation and recording of molting patterns of even common species can be a valuable addition to the knowledge base of a particular species. The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. The Basics: Feather Molt April 20, Female Indigo Bunting are brown overall.
Juvenile male Indigo Buntings wear a similar plumage. Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Found an animal that needs help?
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