AGE – BEST CRITERIA:
Since the pre-br moult is limited to the body and head, the characters used during autumn are still valid. 2cy birds show moult contrasts in the wing between the worn and bleached retained juv plumage and fresher glossy post-juv plumage. Juv feathers still retain their dominant orange/brown colouration. Typically, moult limits are found within the TT or between the TT and SS. Those with a more limited post-juv moult replace only the inner one-third GC but most moult all GC (the moult limit is then found between the outermost GC and PC). Often 1-3 AL are also included in the post-juv moult. 3cy+ birds show a uniform and moderately fresh plumage with, on average, less orange/brown colouration, tending to be dominated by darker glossier brown and black tones.
Most ad birds are not possible to age further than 3cy+ due to the complete post-br moult. However, some ad arrest their moult before completion of SS and/or underwing GC. Hence, feathers retained in the post-br moult are still useful during spring as they can usually be assigned to either juv or ad type, and thereby gives the possibility to separate some 3cy and 4cy+ birds.
2cy March. Rufous tones dominate with tapering and pointed tips to the PP and a moderate amount of wear, particularly noticeable on the outer PP. Post-juv LC, MC, and inner one-third GC contrast to juv outer GC. 
2cy April. PC narrow with tapering tips. The orange/brown tips are broad and the same colour as the neighbouring wedges. All visible AL juv. 
3cy+ March. PC with a glossy brown/black ground colour, fresh and with minimal bleaching. The blunt tips are also narrow and paler than juv. 
Ringers’ DigiGuide is sponsored by: