Quantifying Plumage Color as a Measure of Feather Quality
All birds replace their feathers (molt) 1-2 times per year, providing an upgrade from old, worn plumage. Characteristics of the molt can affect feather quality: later, faster molts produce lower-quality feathers. Feather quality depends partly on the pigments incorporated into the feather keratin: the pigment melanin makes feathers more durable. We explored methods for quantifying melanin content of feathers of the Carolina Chickadee, as part of long-term research on molt dynamics and feather quality in this species.
Department of Biology
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