Plumage development and moult in captive Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis: age and sex variations
The sandgrouse, family Pteroclididae, are a group of birds adapted to open, arid habitats and powerful fliers but information on their plumage development and moult is scarce. In this study, the annual cycle of body plumage development, sequence and duration of primary flight feathers moult were investigated in Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis, from hatching to the adult stage. Body plumage differed among juvenile, immature and subadult birds before their first breeding season. Yearling Black-bellied Sandgrouse showed three annual moults with only the pre-breeding one being complete. Juvenal body plumage was acquired shortly before the first attempts to fly at 5–6 weeks of age. The acquisition of definitive adult body plumage took place after the breeding season in late August, when birds were about 10–12 months old. The species typically replaced all primaries annually with a gradual descendent moult at a slow rate, taking 10–11 months for their completion, from December to September, including the breeding period. This study provides the first detailed analysis of flight feather development and moulting in the Black-bellied Sandgrouse, which provides useful ageing criteria based on the patterns of both primary growth and moult.
Keywords: duration, feathers, moult, plumage, sandgrouse, sequence