Use of trace elements in feathers of sand martin Riparia riparia for identifying moulting areas

T. Szép, Anders Pape Møller, Judit Vallner, B. Kovács, David Norman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We investigated whether trace elements in tail feathers of an insectivorous and long-distance migratory bird species could be used to identify moulting areas and hence migratory pathways. We analysed tail feathers from birds of different age and sex collected from a range of different breeding sites across Europe. The site of moult had a large effect on elemental composition of feathers of birds, both at the European and African moulting sites. Analysis of feathers of nestlings with known origin suggested that the elemental composition of feathers depended largely upon the micro-geographical location of the colony. The distance between moulting areas could not explain the level of differences in trace elements. Analysis of feathers grown by the same individuals on the African wintering grounds and in the following breeding season in Europe showed a large difference in composition indicating that moulting site affects elemental composition. Tail feathers moulted in winter in Africa by adults breeding in different European regions differed markedly in elemental composition, indicating that they used different moulting areas. Analysis of tail feathers of the same adult individuals in two consecutive years showed that sand martins in their first and second wintering season grew feathers with largely similar elemental composition, although the amounts of several elements in tail feathers of the older birds was lower. There was no difference between the sexes in the elemental composition of their feathers grown in Africa. Investigation of the trace element composition of feathers could be a useful method for studying similarity among groups of individuals in their use of moulting areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-320
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Volume34
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2003

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feather
tail feather
feathers
molting
trace elements
trace element
sand
tail
bird
breeding site
molt
nestling
Riparia riparia
birds
breeding season
breeding
gender
Geographical Locations
winter
breeding sites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Use of trace elements in feathers of sand martin Riparia riparia for identifying moulting areas. / Szép, T.; Møller, Anders Pape; Vallner, Judit; Kovács, B.; Norman, David.

In: Journal of Avian Biology, Vol. 34, No. 3, 09.2003, p. 307-320.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Szép, T. ; Møller, Anders Pape ; Vallner, Judit ; Kovács, B. ; Norman, David. / Use of trace elements in feathers of sand martin Riparia riparia for identifying moulting areas. In: Journal of Avian Biology. 2003 ; Vol. 34, No. 3. pp. 307-320.
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