Little Stint in Melbourne - Plumage

To: "BIRDING-AUS" <>, "Colin Scouler" <>
Subject: Little Stint in Melbourne - Plumage
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 17:30:25 +1100
Colin Scouler asked

> Assuming that the LS at Point Cook was moulting out of, not into, breeding
> plumage, can any wader experts explain why it was in full or near full
> breeding plumage in January? None of the Red-necked Stints there seem to
> have been in other than non-breeding plumage.

Well, while not an expert, here is my take at a possible explanation.

Since the time of the 'stint wars' at Werribee in the late 70's, I've
believed that the Little Stints we pick in the field in our summer, (a small
proportion of those actually here as revealed by the numbers caught by
banders), are either late moulters or in reverse cycle moult. Those in
normal moult sequence go undetected in the field. It is indeed strange that
'many' of the 'few' that we do get in Australia show signs of breeding
plumage. Perhaps the fact that they are here rather than in South Africa
indicates that they are somewhat twisted!

The Little Stint we saw and photographed on 24 September 2003 at Ashmore
Reef was in full breeding plumage whereas none of the accompanying
Red-necked Stints displayed breeding plumage. And as Chris Brandis points
out, that was also abnormal for a Little Stint. So by Jan/Feb (now), a bird
like that would be losing its breeding plumage. That would seem to fit
reverse cycle moult. That is, it is a bird assuming breeding plumage for the
austral rather than the boreal summer. A confused beast perhaps caught in
the wrong hemisphere. I understand that the moult timing in Little Stint is
different to that of the Red-necked Stint but this might apply less to body
moult than to the flight feathers. I'll leave that to someone who has
handled a few.

When I saw the Point Cook Little Stint on 2 February, it was much less
colourful than it showed in the photographs taken by Rohan Clarke & Frank
Pierce on 25 January. Indeed, the head and neck seemed to have lost all the
rufous tints. Initially, I thought that it must be a different bird but this
individual is distinguished by a full 'tramline' on only the right side of
the back. So it was the same bird and thus appears to be losing, not
gaining, breeding plumage at least in regard to the contour feathers.

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mt Eliza    VIC     3930
Ph:  (03) 9787 7136

Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message:
'unsubscribe birding-aus' (no quotes, no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU