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White-rumped Shama: Feather condition

on 1st October 2009

The image of the male White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) by Jason Cho clearly shows the state of two rectrices or tail feathers. The outer right rectrix (on your left in the picture) is a new feather. Note the continuous outline of the vanes except for the distinct fault line just before the tip. This fault line is created during the growth of the feather when the bird was not getting enough nutrients, as feather growth is a energy demanding. On the other hand, the left outer rectrix (on your right in the picture) is an old and worn out feather waiting to be shed. Note the frayed outline and the worn out end portion, a result of wear and tear of this tail feather.

As feathers are dead structures and cannot be repaired when worn out or broken, new ones need to be produced. As a new feather grows out, it pushes the old one from its follicle. This is known as moulting. With tail feathers, partial moulting is seen as one or more rectrices are replaced at a time. It would not be to the bird’s advantage to have a complete moult as otherwise its maneuverability would be compromised.

This post is a cooperative effort between NaturePixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

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