Why Mzee Pavo Lost His Feathers

Mzee Pavo (the peacock) lost his feathers a month ago due to moulting.

 

 

Birds moult periodically, shedding old feathers for new. Feathers are dead structures which gradually need to be replaced. Adult birds can moult up to three times a year.

 

 

 

 

Moulting is a slow process because birds rarely shed all their feathers at once. A bird must retain sufficient feathers to regulate its body temperature and repel moisture. The number of feathers that are shed varies. In some moulting periods, a bird may renew only the feathers on the head and body, shedding the wing and tail feathers during a later moulting period.

 

 

Some species of birds become flightless during an annual “wing moult” and
must seek a protected habitat with a reliable food supply during that time. While the plumage may appear thin or uneven during the moult, the bird’s general shape is maintained despite the loss of feathers.

 

 

 

 

The process of moulting begins with the bird shedding some old feathers. The pin feathers replace the old feathers. As the pin feathers become full feathers, other feathers are shed.

 

 

The feather loss is equal on each side of the body.

 

 

Feathers make up 4–12% of a bird’s body weight and it takes a large amount of energy to replace them. For this reason, moulting often occurs immediately after the breeding season, while food is still abundant. The plumage produced during this time is called postnuptial plumage.

 

 

Report by Daniel Kilonzo, Resident Naturalist at Great Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort. 

Heritage Hotels (Kenya) manages The Great Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort in Naivasha, just an hour an a half’s drive from Nairobi. The lodge is famous for one the longest holes in Kenya – the par 5 -  17th ‘signature’ at 598 metres (654 yards)!
©Heritage Hotels Ltd, Kenya.

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