Howell et al. (2003) proposed modifications to the system of molt terminology for birds developed by Humphrey and Parkes (1959) to address a perceived inconsistency in the Humphrey-Parkes (‘H-P’) system that Howell et al. (2003) termed the ‘first basic problem’. These modifications have been adopted by mainstream ornithological literature, but are premature and unnecessary. The recharacterization of the prejuvenal and first prebasic molts, and resulting plumages, by Howell et al. (2003) is: (1) not supported by scientific studies, (2) inconsistent with several factors that support classification of these molts and plumages under the H-P system, and (3) contrary to the fundamental purpose of that system. Moreover, the H-P system can be interpreted in a manner that resolves the ‘first basic problem’ without recharacterizing the prejuvenal and first prebasic molts and resulting plumages. The H-P system also can be interpreted to start the first molt cycle with commencement of the initial acquisition of contour feathers and provide a fixed point to start a nomenclature of molts and plumages. The four molt strategies identified by Howell et al. (2003) may be explained by variability in conventional first prebasic and first prealternate molts and are not dependent on adoption of their proposed modifications of the H-P system. Ornithologists are encouraged to re-examine the modifications to the H-P system proposed by Howell et al. (2003) and to resolve existing conflicts in North American molt terminology by adopting the proposed interpretations of the H-P system identified in this paper.
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Vol. 124 • No. 2