Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 156, Supplement 1, pp 367–376 | Cite as

Global patterns of seasonal acclimatization in avian resting metabolic rates

  • Andrew E. McKechnie
  • Matthew J. Noakes
  • Ben Smit


The adjustment of resting metabolic rates represents an important component of avian seasonal acclimatization, with recent studies revealing substantial differences between summer and winter in birds from a wide range of latitudes. We compared seasonal variation in basal metabolic rate (BMR) and summit metabolism (M sum) between temperate and tropical/subtropical latitudes, and examined correlations with latitude and temperature. The direction and magnitude of seasonal adjustments in BMR are broadly related to temperature and latitude, but are significantly more variable among tropical and subtropical species compared to those inhabiting temperate zones. Winter adjustments in BMR among subtropical species, when expressed relative to summer values, range from decreases of approximately 35 % to increases of more than 60 %, whereas the majority of temperate-zone species show increases in BMR during winter. Relatively few seasonal M sum data exist for tropical/subtropical species, but those that are available involve responses ranging from winter decreases to increases of similar magnitude to those characteristic of many temperate-zone species. Recent studies also highlight the substantial variation in seasonal adjustments that may occur within species, and reiterate the need for further investigations of the relative roles of environmental variables such as temperature and food availability as determinants of seasonal metabolic variation.


Acclimatization Basal metabolic rate Latitude Subtropics Summit metabolism 



We thank David Swanson and François Vézina for organizing an exceptionally interesting and enjoyable symposium, and the International Ornithological Congress for a travel grant to A.E.M. Two anonymous reviewers provided insightful comments that greatly improved the quality of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew E. McKechnie
    • 1
  • Matthew J. Noakes
    • 1
  • Ben Smit
    • 2
  1. 1.DST-NRF Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute, Department of Zoology and EntomologyUniversity of PretoriaHatfieldSouth Africa
  2. 2.Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of ZoologyNelson Mandela Metropolitan UniversityPort ElizabethSouth Africa

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