White-breasted Waterhen – adult wing moult

posted in: Feathers-maintenance | 2

“When I first saw this White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus phoenicurus) I thought it might be injured with wing damage. But on closer inspection the wing changes were bilateral and fairly uniform. I considered some form of disease with feather loss but the bird looked otherwise healthy and had come out to get some sun. I suspect this is the wing moult of the adult bird but then again I have not seen it before (seen large numbers of waterhens over the years).

White-breasted Waterhen-1a-Tambun, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia-15th October 2017

“I previously reported a wing moult of an immature moulting into an adult. See:HERE and HERE.

White-breasted Waterhen-3a-Tambun, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia-15th October 2017

“I am not able to find any information on moulting in adults waterhens and appreciate views/sources. Some of the Rallidae are known to have a wing moult and be flightless for 2-3 weeks. Perhaps this renders the bird vulnerable and hence rarely seen?

“More images on request.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
15th October 2017

Location: Tambun, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Secondary growth near limestone hills

2 Responses

  1. Some bird watchers who have seen these images consider that this might be a disease. Amar

  2. Lee Chiu San

    About White Breasted Waterhens and their feathers.
    The bird in the picture is definitely NOT normal. I postulate that though disease is one possibility for the unusual feather condition, this could also be a bird that recently escaped or was released from captivity. Having experience with both domestically bred and wild caught birds in aviculture, I know that many freshly confined birds thrash against the cage bars. The tail feathers and the primaries on both wings come through the wires. And though the feather shafts may remain unbroken, all the other parts of the feathers get worn away.
    What remain are bare shafts, rather like those in the photos. Also note that the bird appears lacking in tail feathers.
    I can’t help but constantly look at White Breasted Waterhens.
    Due to developments in my neighbourhood, suitable habitats for them have shrunk as drains have been lined with concrete and turned into canals, while bungalow houses with large and overgrown gardens have been manicured and converted into office blocks or child care centres.
    Two remaining pairs of Waterhens have moved in with me. One pair occupies the front garden, where they lurk among the Heliconia stems and forage for water snails in the fish pond.
    The second pair lives in my back garden, among the tall stems of ginger plants, and take their chances with the bad-tempered turtle in the back pond.
    Both pairs of Waterhens are very demanding, and do not hesitate to bang on my front and back doors whenever their breakfast is served late.
    With adequate food, each pair, on average, has raised two clutches of babies per year over the last six years. I have seen both the babies and the adults through numerous moults, from infant to adult plumage.
    i have not seen the kind of plumage shown in Amar’s photographs in any of the dozens of Waterhens that have passed through my house.
    When adult, the babies have been unceremoniously booted out by their parents, though there have been at least two instances of acrimonious succession struggles, or perhaps accidents, when one of the youngsters booted out one parent (or lost it to a predator) and took its place with the other parent. When I have more photographic evidence, I will post an article on Oedipus complexes in White Breasted Waterhen families.

Leave a Reply