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Fuelling and moult in Red Knots before northward departure: a visual evaluation of differences between ages, sexes and subspecies
Verhoeven, M.A.; Van Eerbeek, J.; Hassell, C.J.; Piersma, T. (2016). Fuelling and moult in Red Knots before northward departure: a visual evaluation of differences between ages, sexes and subspecies. Emu 116: 158-167. dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU15035
In: Emu: journal of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union. CSIRO Publishing (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization): Melbourne. ISSN 0158-4197, meer
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Verhoeven, M.A.
  • Van Eerbeek, J.
  • Hassell, C.J.
  • Piersma, T., meer

Abstract
    The departure of migratory birds from their non-breeding grounds is thought to be driven by the phenologyof their breeding destination. In north-west Australia, two plumage morphs of Red Knot (Calidris canutus) prepare for a5500-km journey to Yellow Sea staging areas. These morphs are recognised as the subspecies C. c. piersmai and C. c. rogersi,which breed at different latitudes and have different seasonalities. From February to May 2011, we observed the migratorypreparation of individually marked birds of known age, sex and type. This enabled a comparison of fuelling rates and prealternatemoult among these classes. First-year birds did not prepare for migration. Second-year birds accumulatedsmaller fuel stores and reached lower plumage scores than adults. Adults of both types reached their highest abdominalprofile scores by the end of April when they were last observed in Roebuck Bay. This lack of difference between types inthe timing of fuelling and departure is surprising. Based on the differences in staging and breeding phenology, C. c. rogersiis expected to leave north-west Australia 2–4 weeks before C. c. piersmai. Assuming that types and subspecies are equivalent,our findings in combination with other research on Red Knots in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway suggest that it takesmore than breeding origin alone to explain annual cycles in migratory birds. Concurrent migratory schedules imply that,during northward staging in the Yellow Sea, there is strong variation in fuelling rates between and within subspeciesdepending on non-breeding origin. The ongoing loss of staging habitat may therefore have differential effects on Red Knotsin the East Asian–Australasian Flyway.

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