Which statement is correct? A. Mallards don't have a basic plumage. B. Mallards don't have an alternate plumage. C. Canada geese don't have a basic plumage. D. Canada geese don't have an alternate plumage.
Both statements are actually false for mallards. What we refer to as "basic plumage" actually refers to the dull-colored feathers the ducks produce and soon molt in between moltings. Ducks must shed their feathers to replace worn out feathers. They first molt and replace their feathers during the fall. It can take up to two weeks for the ducks' new feathers to grow in, and the ducks are flightless until this occurs. After the first fall molting, dull-colored feathers grow in, as opposed to the brightly colored gray feathers on the wings and the bright green head feathers we are used to seeing on the males. In fact, during this period in their molting cycle, the males look a lot like the females, except for the differences in beak color. It's these dull-colored feathers that we refer to as a mallard's "basic plumage." The mallards' basic plumage is then molted in early spring and it's then that the ducks put on their "alternate plumage," which is especially seen in the males' bright coloring.
Likewise, the statements are equally false for Canada geese. Canada geese also molt in mid or late fall and grow in the same dull basic plumage. In addition, just like mallard ducks, even the basic plumage is molted and alternate plumage grows in. Alternate plumage is a very important part of courtship for both ducks and geese.