Body temperature responses to handling stress in wintering Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus L.)

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Body temperature variation in response to acute stress is typically characterized by peripheral vasoconstriction and a concomitant increase in core body temperature (stress-induced hyperthermia). It is poorly understood how this response differs between species and within individuals of the same species, and how it is affected by the environment. We therefore investigated stress-induced body temperature changes in a non-model species, the Black-capped Chickadee, in two environmental conditions: outdoors in low ambient temperature (mean: − 6.6 °C), and indoors, in milder ambient temperature close to thermoneutrality (mean: 18.7 °C). Our results show that the change in body temperature in response to the same handling stressor differs in these conditions. In cold environments, we noted a significant decrease in core body temperature (− 2.9 °C), whereas the response in mild indoor conditions was weak and non-significant (− 0.6 °C). Heat loss in outdoor birds was exacerbated when birds were handled for longer time. This may highlight the role of behavioral thermoregulation and heat substitution from activity to body temperature maintenance in harsh condition. Importantly, our work also indicates that changes in the physical properties of the bird during handling (conductive cooling from cold hands, decreased insulation from compression of plumage and prevention of ptiloerection) may have large consequences for thermoregulation. This might explain why females, the smaller sex, lost more heat than males in the experiment. Because physiological and physical changes during handling may carry over to affect predation risk and maintenance of energy balance during short winter days, we advice caution when designing experimental protocols entailing prolonged handling of small birds in cold conditions.


Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • University of Strasbourg
  • Université du Québec à Rimouski

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Zoologi
  • Ekologi
  • Biofysik


  • body temperature, handling stress, hypothermia, hyperthermia, heterothermy, Poecile atricapillus, stress-induced hyperthermia, winter
Sidor (från-till)49-54
Antal sidor6
TidskriftPhysiology & Behavior
StatusPublished - 2017
Peer review utfördJa