Questions and Answers about Wild Birds

Question of the week:

Q. What is meant by eclipse plumage?

This plumage is peculiar to the drakes of Northern Hemisphere ducks.  They have a postnuptial molt in May or June, at which time they develop their fall or winter plumage.  This is called the eclipse plumage.  It is replaced in the autumn or early winter by the nuptial plumage.  Thus most northern ducks spend but a short period of time wearing the eclipse or winter plumage, for they acquire their breeding plumage long before the season for nesting arrives.  Though female ducks retain the same plumage pattern throughout the year,  they mot their flight feathers all at once, so, like the drakes going into eclipse plumage, they are unable to fly until new primaries replace the fallen ones.



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