, Volume 163, Issue 3, pp 219-224

Effects of flight on blood parameters in homing pigeons

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Abstract

The influence of flight and flight duration on 13 blood parameters was studied in homing pigeons which returned after 2–22 h of flight from release sites 113–620 km away. The haematocrit value decreased from 54.4% in controls to 51.0% in the flown birds. A lowered haematocrit overproportionately improves blood flow. The plasma concentrations of glucose and l(+)-lactate did not differ between experimental and control birds. This is compatible with the idea that carbohydrates are utilized as fuel mainly in the initial phase of flight. Plasma free fatty acid levels were significantly increased during flight and triglyceride concentrations gradually decreased with progressive flight duration. These findings support the view that lipids are the main energy source during flight. Plasma uric acid concentrations were increased two- to fourfold in flown birds. Urea levels gradually rose with flight duration to 400% of controls. Plasma protein concentration was lowered in flown pigeons. These results hint to an increased protein degradation during flight. Na+, K+, Ca2+, and Mg2+ levels in the plasma of the flown pigeons were not significantly different from control values. This finding together with the urea/uric acid ratio indicates that no severe dehydration occurred in our pigeons during free-range flight.