Emberiza shoeniclus - spring

Common Reed Bunting / Sävsparv


Because of the resticted pre-breeding moult (involves primarily the head), autumn criterias are still applicable, though 2cy are more affected to wear during the winter than adult. In 2cy, moult contrasts are often present in RR, alula and tertials, but are not always easy to detect. Adult birds show a uniform and freshly moulted plumage (and any newly grown RR is likely due to replacement after accidental loss, and not regular moult). The general condition and shape of RR and PC are often helpful.
  • Juvenile RR are generally of less good quality, more worn, narrow and more pointed. Many young birds (c. 48% according to Jenni & Winkler [1994]) included one or several (sometimes even all) RR in the post-juvenile moult, resulting in a contrast in many individuals.
  • The juvenile PC usually shows a looser texture and more worn tips and edges compared to adult birds. Further, they usually show a slightly paler brown centre and have less tendency to show greyish tips than adult ones, but individual variation should be kept in mind.
  • Many birds show a moult contrast in alula, with inner one (or two) being rather fresh, dark glossy and with neat brown edges in relatively good condition (like the CC), in contrast to juvenile outer one (or two) which is more worn brownish.
  • 0-3 tertials (most commonly two) are included in the moult, and many birds show a moult contrast where the post-juvenile feathers are in better condition and show a darker centre than the remaining juvenile ones. Note, however, that the longest tertial is often (within the same feather generation) slightly paler than the inner two, and assessment of wear is therefor important before concluding a moult contrast. 
  • More or less all individuals moulted all ten GC, and these feathers seldom contain any vital information for the ageing (and the contrast to the PC is very hard to see). However, exceptions may occur, and glance at the outer GC is always advicable.

  • Whole plumage uniform and (relatively) fresh, lacking moult contrasts. But remember that a) singel RR may have been lost and replaced, creating a contrast, and b) the slightly paler longest tertial may create a false impression of a contrast.
  • Adult RR are generally in better condition, slightly broader with more blunt shaped tips. But remember that a few 1cy bird include the whole tail in the post-juvenile moult, making it useless for ageing.
  • PC are in better condition, more dense and often with greyish tips.
2cy (male) May. Juvenile RR are generally more worn, show more pointed tips and are, on average, slightly narrower than in adult. Note that many 2cy birds (though not this one) show one or more post-juvenile RR, being more fresh, slightly broader and with blunter tip (see photo in autumn page). Occasionally, all RR may be moulted. [1ET28087]
2cy (female) April. showing variation of juvenile tail. [1ET29456]
3cy+ (male) April. Adult RR are generally in better condition (though rather worn here), slightly broader with more blunt shaped tips. Remember that a few 1cy bird include the whole tail in the post-juvenile moult, then making it useless for ageing. [1ET29464]
3cy+ (female) May, showing variation of post-breeding tail. [1ES24573]
2cy (male) May.  The juvenile PC shows a looser texture and slightly more worn tips and edges compared to adult birds. Note that this individual also show a moult contrast in alula where the innermost is moulted post-juvenile and fresh in contrast to the outer two feathers which are both juvenile (the central one is slightly worn with brownish centre and less neat brown edges - compare with the birds below). [1ET28087]
2cy (female) April. showing variation in the juvenile PC. Also this bird shows a post-juvenile innermost alula in contrast to the two more worn outer juvenile feathers. [1ET29456]
3cy+ (male) April. Adult PC are in better condition, more dense and often show fine greyish tips. Note also the appearance of non-juvenile alula feathers - fresh, glossy dark and with neat brown edges. [1ET29464]
3cy+ (female) May, showing variation in adult PC and alula. [1ET29516]
2cy (male) March. Assessing worn tertials is often difficult. Quite many 2cy (probably including this individual) show uniformly post-juvenile tertials, unseparable from the subsequent adult generations. [1ET29395]
2cy (female) April. Again, it is difficult to say for certain, but it seems likely that this bird shows a moult contrast where the innermost tertial is moulted post-juvenile, while the outer two are unmoulted juvenile. Note the slight difference in wear as well as in the colour and gloss of the centre, were the innermost tertial is blackish and the central one is brownish-black (and remember that the outermost tertial often is paler brown than the other two, regardless of which generation is present). [1ET29446]
3cy+ (male) April, showing uniform post-breeding tertials.  [1ET29464]
3cy+ (female) May, showing variation in pattern and wear in post-breeding tertials. [1ES24573]
2cy (male) March. Since practically all 1cy (like this one) include all ten GC in the post-juvenile moult, GC are seldom of any use for ageing. But exceptions should be expected, and single juvenile outer GC may eventually give further aid in the ageing process.  [1ET29395]
3cy+ (female) May, showing a uniform post-breeding wing. [1ES24573]
More Emberiza scheniclus:
Sexing spring
Ageing autumn
Sexing autumn
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