Title

Corticosterone levels during post-natal development in captive American kestrels (Falco sparverius)

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2003

Publication Title

General and Comparative Endocrinology

Volume

130

Issue

2

First Page

135

Last Page

141

DOI

10.1016/S0016-6480(02)00587-7

Abstract

We investigated post-natal development of the adrenocortical stress-response system in captive American kestrels (Falco sparverius) by measurements of baseline and stress-induced levels of corticosterone at ages 10, 16, 22, and 28 days post-hatching. Baseline levels of corticosterone increased significantly during post-natal development and although chicks aged 10- and 16-days old exhibited comparable baseline corticosterone levels, those of 22-day-old chicks were significantly higher and those of 28-day-old chicks close to fledging were higher than all younger groups. Chicks in this study exhibited low levels of stress-induced corticosterone early in development and did not exhibit adult-type stress-induced levels of corticosterone until 22 days of age post-hatching. Finally, although baseline and stress-induced levels of 28-day-old birds were significantly higher than one-year-old adults, there was no relationship between baseline corticosterone concentrations and time to nest departure. The fact that baseline levels of corticosterone are low during early development and then increase during later development may be an adaptation to the negative effects of chronically elevated corticosterone levels and as previously noted in other studies may minimize these negative effects on rapid growth and development in young birds, potentially maximizing normal growth. The ability of even young kestrel chicks to elevate corticosterone levels in response to stress suggests that they may be able to physiologically cope with food shortages associated with unpredictable food resources which wild kestrels often face.

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