Pin-Striped Tit Babbler: Tail moult?

posted in: Feathers-maintenance | 0

“A flock of four Pin-Striped Tit-babblers (Macronus gularis) was encountered foraging together in dense foliage. The unfavourable lighting condition under heavy shade, obscured view due to vegetation, and the birds’ constant flitting movement from stem to stem, was quite a challenge for decent images.

“Browsing through the images that have been captured, I came across a couple that showed one of the babblers without most of its tail feathers. This bird appeared to have lost all its tail feathers except for its two outermost tail feathers (above left). Compared with the usually bushy tail with layered appearance for a normal babbler (above right), the depleted tail of this bird looked odd and pathetic. The pathetic tail was discovered only after processing the pictures as it was not noticed in the field. Since tail feathers are used for stability and control, the depleted rectrices of this bird may have affected its movement. However, nothing unusual was detected while the babblers were being stalked. All seemed to be moving normally. Perhaps, the short distances that they were mostly covering, through hopping and darting, may have been too brief for proper observation.

“Did the babbler shed its tail feathers naturally? Could the feathers be shed for the bird to escape from a predator’s clutches? Or, perhaps, a case of fright moult?”

Kwong Wai Chong
Singapore
3rd September 2011

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