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Journal Article

Plasma corticosterone in nestling American kestrels: Effects of age, handling stress, yolk androgens, and body condition

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Sockman, K. W., & Schwabl, H. (2001). Plasma corticosterone in nestling American kestrels: Effects of age, handling stress, yolk androgens, and body condition. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 122(2), 205-212. doi:10.1006/gcen.2001.7626.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-1301-2
The effects of age, handling-induced stress, yolk androgens, and body condition on plasma corticosterone levels were investigated in free-living nestling American kestrels, Falco sparverius, a semialtricial falcon species. In an observational study, corticosterone levels varied with age and handling time. Specifically, corticosterone was low until age 15 days and then rose from age 20 through 25 days. Nestlings as young as age 10 days showed a handling-induced rise in corticosterone. Neither sex nor hatching order of the nestling affected corticosterone levels. Concentrations of maternally derived yolk androgens have previously been shown to be lower in first-laid than in later-laid eggs in the clutch. In an experimental study, androgens were injected into the yolk of the first-laid egg to elevate its levels to those of later-laid eggs, a treatment that substantially reduces nestling body condition compared with that of controls. Yolk androgen treatment elevated posthatching corticosterone levels compared with those of controls, and corticosterone levels were negatively correlated with body condition. These findings indicate that even very young, developing birds can show stress-induced increases in corticosterone and that age-related changes in corticosterone secretion may be modified by body condition and maternal effects such as yolk androgen deposition. The short- and long-term consequences of high glucocorticosteroid levels in young, developing vertebrates are largely unknown. (C) 2001 Academic Press.