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Posts Tagged ‘moult’

Moulting Update for July

July 23rd, 2010

Moulting Update for July

Summer can be a quiet time for falconers with a moulting bird. For me, it’s a time to learn more about my Hunting Hawk and see how she does with a regular routine.  The feathers are coming in quite nicely, I can’t wait until her tail is full summed.  Her wings are going to be very dark and the front of her chest is already getting some colored streaks to it.  She may or may not lose her belly band this year, but that remains to be seen. Some red-tails don’t lose it until the second season.
In the picture above, Tahoe has lost all of her immature tail feathers, and you can notice the difference in coloration between the newly grown feathers in the secondaries on the wing (they are darker).  The red tail feathers continue to grow in.  Keeping the mews clean has been quite a challenge, as it looks like someone went in there and had a pillow fight!

Raptor Biology , ,

Moulting Update for June

June 21st, 2010

Moulting Update for June

The Summer Solstice has arrived and its a good time to update on moulting progress for Tahoe’s adult plumage. Feathers continue to drop each day, mostly body feathers by now.  Several of the deck feathers and primaries still remain, but I’m sure it’s soon to change.  I’ve already started to see the adult red-tail feathers grow out beyond the body and contour feathers, it’s very exciting to see them already.  As she loses more body feathers, the mottling of the immy-brown feathers and the adult-body feathers becomes more apparent.  The adult feathers are two shades darker, almost black compared to the brown feathers. I’m super excited to watch her transform her colors.  I’ve received many compliments on her plumage, with many companion falconers commenting that she would be a dark bird as an adult.  At this stage in the game, it’s certainly appearing that way.  Until next time!

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Moulting in Full Swing

May 27th, 2010

Moulting in Full Swing

If it’s not hunting season for falconry, then it must be moulting season.  Such the way it is with flying Red-Tailed hawks for rabbits and squirrels only during the small-game season in Michigan. For the past several weeks, the occasional body feather has been shed by Tahoe, but this could easily be simply because of preening.  During the first week I found some larger feathers in the mews.  A matched pair of secondaries and two primary feathers off the right wing.  During the second week, she’s lost a few deck (tail) feathers as well.  I’m very excited to see these feathers, as it starts to show that Tahoe is starting her moult in earnest.  The loss of primary, secondary, and deck feathers are the best signal yet that Tahoe is officially moulting. We’ll collect the feathers during the moult to chart progress, as well as having spares around for imping should the need arise.

Good Moulting!

Raptor Biology , ,

Spring Time and the Moult

March 18th, 2010

Spring Time and the Moult

The end of the hunting season in falconry signifies the start of the moult*, a time when most birds, including raptors shed their plumage and grow new feathers. As nature intended, the abundance of food (rabbit litters, snakes, other baby animals) coincides with the moult of the feathers after feeding of the chicks, that’s why the timing is so important. Growing new feathers requires lots of nutrients and energy for the bird’s metabolism. So the moult in a Red-Tailed hawk is a process by which feathers are symmetrically dropped and replaced by new ones in a pre-determined sequence. That pre-determined sequence can vary from bird to bird, but essentially, feathers change or ‘drop’ in order. Growing new feathers and maintaining the ability to fly is also important, as raptors still need to catch their food supply and keep their energy levels high.

What To Expect

Red-Tailed Hawks will begin to drop their feathers as early as May and continue the moulting process until late August / early September. During this time, it’s best to ensure that your raptor has plenty of food, regular water changes, and no significant stress. Some Falconers will completely leave their hawk alone during this time, with the exception of feeding and regular water. Others will continue their normal routines as they do during the hunting season. It is agreed, however, not to cast your hawk if it is at all unavoidable. Health reasons may require this, but if you do so, it’s a good idea to feed her right away. Undue stress on the raptor during the moult has the possibility to produce ‘stress-marks’ in the feathers. That is to say that new tail and primary feathers can have weak spots in them caused by the stress. This is certainly not a good condition for the hawk, as it will take another full year to grow new feathers. Her attitude may also change, depending on the weather, amount of food, etc.. Watch her behavior in the mews for any change or difference in habits, jumping, bouncing, or bating.

Noticing Progress

I’ll be watching Tahoe closely, as I am interested in watching her moult for the first time. I was unable to include any pictures here, as I have no pictures of a Red-Tail moulting. I will closely document and snap photos for the moult to watch it progress. I am truly excited to watch my immature raptor transform her feathers into beautiful adult plumage that Red-Tailed Hawks are famous for!

*Molt is the proper American Spelling. *Moult is traditional English Spelling

Do you have experience inter-mewing Red-Tails or other hawks? Please post a comment!

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