ECLIPSE PLUMAGE

Country Smallholding - - Poultry Pen -

Q

What is eclipse plumage and do chick­ens have it?

ANDY SAYS: In wild forms of chicken, such as the Red Jun­gle Fowl, a moult can oc­cur in two stages ef­fec­tively giv­ing the im­pres­sion of two moults. It is par­tic­u­larly ev­i­dent in males. Firstly they will moult their brightly coloured body and head feathers, re­plac­ing them with more sub­dued tones more akin to the fe­males. This af­fords them a level of dis­cre­tion and cam­ou­flage while they go through the vul­ner­a­ble stage of moult­ing their wing feathers and pri­mary flight feathers.

When these are moulted and not yet fully grown, the birds abil­ity to evade pre­da­tion by short flight is com­pro­mised, hence the ‘eclipse’ of their coloured plumage. Once the wing feathers have re- grown the sec­ond stage of the moult oc­curs where the tem­po­rary dull coloured feathers are re­placed by the bright breed­ing plumage.

Moult­ing in this man­ner is more fre­quently seen in ducks where the drakes on a lake seem to dis­ap­pear. They are, in fact, still pre­sent but hid­ing in more sub­dued fe­male look­ing feath­er­ing.

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