Use of alula shape for ageing Noisy Miners Manorina melanocephala: a critical evaluation

We evaluated the use of the shape of the longest alula feather as an ageing characteristic for Noisy Miners Manorina melanocephala through the examination of 316 mature and 147 immature individuals that were independently aged using internal characteristics. Our results contrast with those of a previous study that suggested that the shape of the alula feather is diagnostic of age – juveniles were suggested to have a broad alula with a rounded tip, whilst matures have a narrow, pointed alula. We found that although immature Noisy Miners were more likely than matures to display a round alula, a round alula was also frequently recorded on mature individuals. We determined that the use of alula shape is an insufficient and unreliable ageing characteristic for this species.

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