Friday, 28 June 2013

The Summer Eclipse

15th June 2013

Another visit to Rye Meads demonstrated that we were well into the second half of the breeding season. There were young birds everywhere, including these broods of Canada Geese and Mute Swans.

But what was more noticeable was the large flocks of ducks loafing around, all starting their eclipse. Eclipse plumage is a survival strategy whereby the brightly-coloured males moult into a dull plumage the same as the females, which makes them less conspicuous while they are flightless. This is why during late July and August all the male Mallards seem to disappear.

Many of the male ducks are now showing the first signs of the transition to eclipse like this male Tufted Duck. The normally gleaming white sides are already showing signs of some dull brown feathers and in a few weeks time the bird will be totally dark brown.

 The advent of the autumnal moult means even more bathing and preening.

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