Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Love, Oliver


conservation, corticosterone, feather, glucocorticoid, integument, stress



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


The measurement of stress through glucocorticoid levels in feathers has been proposed as a key physiological tool useful to the investigation of mechanistic linkages of ecological and conservation problems. However, a number of details of the method are not well-understood, limiting the current interpretation and applications of this tool. Here we investigate the pattern and repeatability of corticosterone levels in naturally-grown feathers, assess the long-term stability of these levels and their resistance to external change, and evaluate their ability to respond to a long-term stressor during breeding using feathers from a wild population of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). Our results indicate gaps in the current understanding of feather corticosterone and provide important guidance on the future measurement of stress in feathers and its use in assessing natural and anthropogenic impacts in the wild.