Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 161, Issue 6, pp 576–580 | Cite as

Basal and stress-induced corticosterone levels of garden warblers, Sylvia borin, during migration

  • Hubert Schwabl
  • Franz Bairlein
  • Eberhard Gwinner


Plasma levels of the metabolically and behaviorally active corticosteroid hormone, corticosterone, were studied in garden warblers in the laboratory and in the field during the autumnal migratory phase. Garden warblers showing nocturnal migratory activity in the laboratory had elevated levels of corticosterone at the end of the dark phase and low levels during daytime. When nocturnal migratory activity was experimentally disrupted by food deprivation and subsequent refeeding or after spontaneous termination of migratory activity this rhythm was absent. Garden warblers stopping over in the Sahara desert during autumnal migration had low levels of corticosterone. Levels were negatively correlated with fat stores and body mass in birds sampled throughout the day. These levels were generally lower than those associated with stress in response to repeated handling and blood sampling. The results suggest (1) the existence of diel changes in adrenocortical hormonal activity that could be involved in regulation of migration, and (2) that garden warblers carrying large fat depots are not stressed by prolonged flight or lack of appropiate feeding areas during migration over the desert.

Key words

Adrenal Fat Flight Nocturnal Starvation 



adrenocorticotrope hormone


counts per minute






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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hubert Schwabl
    • 1
  • Franz Bairlein
    • 2
  • Eberhard Gwinner
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für VerhaltensphysiologieAndechsFRG
  2. 2.Zoologisches Institut, Lehrstuhl Physiologische ÖkologieUniversität KölnKöln 41FRG

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