Total Eclipse

Tufted Duck

You might have noticed over the last month or so the birds are looking, well, a little lacklustre. Science tells us that is because most of the birds who breed here in the UK moult late summer, ready to grow strong, new feathers ready for the rest of the year. But for certain water birds, they have a special type of moult – and this is called the ‘eclipse’.

Eclipse Tufted Duck
Eclipse Tufted Duck Male (Front)
Tufted Duck
Tufted Duck Male Eclipse

I had a wander down at the Cardiff Bay wetlands to see who was about, and noticed that the resident tufted ducks there were displaying their eclipse plumage. They had lost their tuft, and the males, normally with a shiny black head and striking white markings, had blended in with the modestly brown and black females. I think I’ve correctly identified them here but as the males look so similar to the females at this time, it was a bit of an educated guess using a guidebook!

They do this as during the moult, they lose all of their flight feathers. Being bright and brash during this time does not do them any favours in a world where things want to eat you. And so they temporarily replace their bold appearance with dark, camouflage colours to protect them from predators whilst they’re vulnerable – smart huh?!

Tufted Duck
Tufted Duck Female
Tufted Duck
Tufted Duck Male Eclipse

Some ducks had made it out of the side already, the resident mallards were already growing back their ‘normal’ coat and were flying about between the reed bed areas. They were still looking a little grumpy, I’m guessing regrowing all your feathers might make you feel that way!

Mallard
Mallard

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