Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 8, pp 1195–1199 | Cite as

An automated system to control and manipulate the flight activity of captive birds

  • David Costantini
  • Nosrat Mirzai
  • Neil B. Metcalfe


Biologists have long been interested in the behavioural and physiological mechanisms that regulate flight. The manipulation of physical activity of birds under captive conditions, however, faces the experimenter with some technical problems. In this article, we describe a simple automated system that allows control and manipulation of the flight activity of captive birds and use it for the first time to induce blood oxidative stress in male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Finches subjected to a short-term flight effort regime had an increase of plasma oxidative damage and a decrease of thiol concentration in red blood cells and of body mass, respectively. However, no change in red blood cell glutathione peroxidase was observed. This simple experiment shows that our automated system may be successfully used to induce changes in the physiological state of small birds.


Birds Body mass Flight effort Oxidative stress Zebra finch 



We thank Thomas Wallace from Bioelectronics unit for construction of the mechanical components of the device, Graham Adam and all members of the technician staff for taking care of animals, and two anonymous reviewers for providing comments on the manuscript. David Costantini was supported by a postdoctoral NERC research fellowship (NE/G013888/1).

Ethical standards

All experimental work was conducted under UK Home Office Project Licence PPL 60/3447 and 60/4109.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Costantini
    • 1
  • Nosrat Mirzai
    • 1
  • Neil B. Metcalfe
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life SciencesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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