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Moulting strategies of a long-distance migratory seabird, the Mediterranean Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea diomedea


*Corresponding author.


Seabird moult is poorly understood because most species undergo moult at sea during the non-breeding season. We scored moult of wings, tail and body feathers on 102 Mediterranean Cory's Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea diomedea accidentally caught by longliners throughout the year. Primary renewal was found to be simple and descendant from the most proximal (P1) to the most distal (P10) feather. Secondaries showed a more complex moulting pattern, with three different asynchronous foci: the first starting on the innermost secondaries (S21), the second on the middle secondaries (S5) and the latest on the outermost secondaries (S1). Rectrix moult started at a later stage and was simple and descendant from the most proximal feather (R1) expanding distally. Although a few body feathers can be moulted from prelaying to hatching, moult of ventral and dorsal feathers clearly intensified during chick rearing. Different moulting sequences and uncoupled phenology between primary and secondary renewal suggest that flight efficiency is a strong constraint factor in the evolution of moulting strategies. Moreover, moult of Cory's Shearwaters was synchronous between wings and largely asynchronous between tail halves, with no more than one rectrix moulted at once. This result is probably related to the differential sensitivity of wings and the tail on flight performance, ultimately derived from different aerodynamic functions. Finally, Cory's Shearwater females renewed feathers earlier and faster than males, which may be related to the lower chick attendance of females.