Brahminy Kite in fright moult

on 6th January 2010

In December 2009 Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS photographed an adult Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus intermedius) near his Ipoh home in the Malaysian state of Perak. The kite was in an aerial battle with a Changeable Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus limnaeetus), the account of which has been posted earlier.

What attracted his attention was the right wing of the kite where a few flight feathers were missing. The left wing on the other hand had a complete set of flight feathers – see HERE where both wings are clearly shown.

According to field ornithologist Wang Luan Keng, the Brahminy Kite is undergoing asymmetrical moulting of the wing feathers. Normal moulting is more or less symmetrical, both wings shedding one feather at a time. The loss of two feathers in the right wing is most unusual. Most possibly fright or force moult came into play. Can it be that the kite lost the feathers in an earlier battle with the Changeable Hawk Eagle? The feathers could have been shed when it was attacked, as a defense to distract or confuse the attacker.

The fact that all the primaries and secondaries look new suggests that the kite is not undergoing normal moult, another argument to suggest fright moult.

“The feathers of the right wing were lost quite a while ago as the two new growing feathers are already a few cm long (feathers normally grow just a few mm a day),” adds Luan Keng. “So I can’t say if the feathers were lost due to fighting but they were lost accidentally (not due to regular moult) and because they are important flight feathers, the bird is growing them again.”

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.

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