The wintering and moult of ruffs philomachus pugnax in the Kenyan rift valley
Some 5700 Ruffs were ringed in the southern Kenyan rift valley during 1967–79, mainly at Lakes Nakuru and Magadi. These have produced 15 recoveries outside East Africa, 14 in Siberia between 73° and 154°E and one in India. Adult males returned to Kenya mainly during August, and females during late August and early September. Females greatly outnumbered males at all times. Most wintering males departed late in March and early in April, but females not until about a month later. First-year birds appeared from the end of August, but remained in low numbers until late October or November. Most departed during April and May, but a few females oversummered. First-year birds typically accounted for about 25% of the wintering Nakuru females, but about 50% of those at Magadi. At both sites they accounted for a higher proportion of male birds than females. Most of the birds at Nakuru throughout late August to May appeared to be local winterers, and many individuals remained in the area for many months each year. Retrapping indicated that approximately 60% of each season's birds returned the following season. Adult males and most adult females commenced pre-winter wing moult before arrival, but completed most of it in Kenya. Males moulted 3–4 weeks ahead of females, and most had finished before December. Females typically finished during December and early January. Most second year birds timed their pre-winter moult similarly to older adults. Suspension was recorded in over 15% of all moulting birds examined. Adult pre-summer moult involved most or all of the tertials, some or all of the tail feathers, most of the inner wing coverts and the body and head plumage. It occurred mainly during January to March (males) or February to April (females), although tertial renewal commonly began a month earlier. Males showed no sign in Kenya of the supplementary prenuptial moult. First-year birds moulted from juvenile into first winter body plumage during late September to November. They underwent a pre-summer moult similar in extent and timing to that of adults, and again about a month earlier in males than females. Spring feathers acquired were often as brightly coloured as those of adults. About 15% of first-year birds renewed their outer 2–4 pairs of large primaries during January to April. Adult and first-year birds fattened before spring departure, commonly reaching weights 30–60% above winter mean. Weights of adult males peaked early in April, those of adult females early in May, and those of first-winter females later in May. Weights were relatively high also during August and September. This was due to the arrival of wintering birds carrying ‘spare’ reserves, and also apparently to the presence of a late moulting fattening passage contingent. The wing length of newly moulted adults was about 3 mm longer than that of newly arrived first-year birds, but there was no evidence of an increase in the wing kngth of adults with successive moults. Adult wing length decreased by 4–5 mm between the completion of one moult and the middle stages of the next. The migrations and annual timetable of Kenyan wintering Ruffs are discussed, and their moult strategy is compared with that of other Holarctic waders.
CitationPearson, D. J. (1981), THE WINTERING AND MOULT OF RUFFS PHILOMACHUS PUGNAX IN THE KENYAN RIFT VALLEY. Ibis, 123: 158–182. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.1981.tb00922.x
University of Nairobi