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Possible roles for corticosterone and critical size in the fledging of nestling pied flycatchers

Kern, Michael, Bacon, Wayne, Long, David and Cowie, Richard J. 2001. Possible roles for corticosterone and critical size in the fledging of nestling pied flycatchers. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 74 (5) , pp. 651-659. 10.1086/322927

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Our study was designed to see whether corticosterone (B) rises abruptly in the blood of nestling pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) at the time they fledge, as reported recently for kestrels, and if so, why. We measured the growth and blood levels of B and selected nutrients of nestlings in broods of five, seven, and nine chicks during 1998 and 1999. In half of the broods, we clipped selected wing and tail feathers of both parents with the intention of making it more difficult for them to provide their chicks with food. We collected blood samples when the chicks were six to 10 d old (period of rapid growth) and 15 d of age or older (0–5 d before fledging). B increased substantially several days before the chicks left the nest and then declined somewhat. We found no differences in rates of growth or blood levels of B, nutrients, and hematocrit as a function of either brood size or parental handicapping. Nestlings within a day of fledging appear to have been food deprived in 1998; their glucose was significantly reduced, and B, free fatty acids, and glycerol were significantly elevated compared to levels in chicks 1–4 d younger. Such changes did not occur in 1999. Blood levels of B were significantly correlated with brood size near the day of fledging, but not earlier, in both years of the study. It was possible to predict the day on which chicks would leave the nest, using their wing length when 12 d old. These results suggest that high blood levels of B associated with food restriction and sibling competition induce chicks to fledge, provided they have reached a critical size, and that the importance of fasting, sibling competition, and B may vary from year to year.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
ISSN: 1522-2152
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 06:51

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