Skip to main content

Annual pattern of fecal corticoid excretion in captive Red-tailed parrots (Amazona brasiliensis)


Annual patterns of fecal corticoid excretion were analyzed in the threatened Red-tailed parrot (Amazona brasiliensis) in captivity. Corticoid concentration over the 15 months of the study (mean ± standard error, 12.6 ± 0.32 ng g−1, n = 585) was lowest around May (the southern Fall), and greatest around September (late winter), just prior to their normal breeding period. Corticoid excretion follows a seasonal pattern best explained by reproductive cycles rather than climate, although climate may be involved in the timing of corticoid excretion. Fecal corticoids also show promise as a tool to measure stress levels. We demonstrate that fecal corticoid measurement is a simple, yet efficient method for monitoring adrenocortical activity in captive, and perhaps wild, parrots. Monitoring adrenocortical activity can inform researchers about imposed stress in captivity, whether pair-bonds are forming in captive birds, and of the timing of breeding both in captivity and in nature.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  • Bauck L (1997) Avian dermatology. In: Altman RB, Clubb SL, Dorrestein GM, Quesenberry K (eds) Avian medicine and surgery. W.B.Saunders, Philadelphia, pp 548–562

    Google Scholar 

  • Beltholff JR, Dufty Jr AM (1998) Corticosterone, body condition and locomotor activity: a model for natal dispersal in birds. Anim Behav 55:405–415

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bentley PJ (1998) Comparative vertebrate endocrinology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 526 p

    Google Scholar 

  • BirdLife International 2004. Amazona brasiliensis. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN red list of threatened species. Downloaded 23 June 2006

  • Blem CR (2000) Energy balance. In: Whittow G (ed) Sturkie´s avian physiology, 5. Academic Press, New York, 685 p

    Google Scholar 

  • Breuner CW, Orchinik M (2000) Downstream from corticosterone: seasonality of binding globulins, receptors and behavior in the Avian stress response. In: Dawson A, Chaturvedi CM (eds) Avian endocrinology. Narosa Publishing House, New Delhi, pp 1–11

    Google Scholar 

  • Carere C, Groothuis TGG, Möstl E, Daan S, Koolhaas JM (2003) Fecal corticoids in a territorial bird selected for different personalities: daily rhythm and the response o social stress. Horm Behav 43:540–548

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Cavalheiro ML (1999) Qualidade do ambiente e características fisiológicas do papagaio-de-cara-roxa (Amazona brasiliensis) na Ilha Comprida—São Paulo. (Quality of the environment and physiological characteristics of free-living Red-tailed parrots (Amazona brasiliensis) in Ilha Comprida—Sao Paulo). Master Sciences Dissertation, Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba-PR, p 105

  • Collar NJ, Crosby MJ, Stattersfield AJ (1994) Birds to watch. 2. The world list of threatened birds. Birdlife International, Washington

  • Dehnhard M, Schreer A, Krone O, Jewgenow K, Krause M, Grossmann R (2003) Measurement of plasma corticosterone and faecal glucocorticoid metabolites in the chicken (Gallus domesticus), the great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), and the goshawk (Accipter gentilis). Gen Comp Endocrinol 131:345–352

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Frigerio D, Dittami J, Möstl E, Kotrschal K (2004) Excreted corticosterone metabolites co-vary with ambient temperature and air pressure in male greylag geese. Gen Comp Endocrinol 137:29–36

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hirschenhauser K, Möstl E, Wallner B, Dittami J, Kotrschal K (2000) Endocrine and behavioural responses of male greylag geese (Anser anser) to pairbond challenges during the reproductive season. Ethology 106:63–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hirschenhauser K, Möstl E, Kotrschal K (2005) Synthesis of measuring steroid metabolites in goose feces. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1046:1–16

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Javorouski ML (2003) Comparação da resposta adrenocortical em fêmeas de felídeos submetidas a anesthesia, laparoscopia e manipulação genital. (Comparative adrenocortical response in felid females submitted to anesthesia, laparoscopy and genital manipulation). Research Thesis for M. Sc. degree, Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba-PR, Brazil, 98 p

  • Juniper T, Parr M (1998) Parrots: a guide to parrots of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, 584 p

    Google Scholar 

  • Kotrschal K, Hirschenhauser K, Möstl E (1998) The relationship between social stress and dominance is seasonal in greylag geese. Anim Behav 55:171–176

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kotrschal K, Dittami J, Hirschenhauser K, Möstl E, Peczely P (2000) Effects of physiological and social challenges in different seasons on faecal testosterone and corticosterone in male domestic geese (Anser anser). Acta Ethol 2:115–122

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Low R (2006) in Brazil conservation article.htm Downloaded 23 June

  • Marques MCM, Roper JJ, Salvalaggio APB (2004) Phenological patterns among plant life-forms in a subtropical forest in southern Brazil. Plant Ecol 173:203–213

    Google Scholar 

  • Millspaugh JJ, Washburn BE (2004) Use of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite measures in conservation biology research: considerations for application and interpretation. Gen Comp Endocrinol 138:189–199

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Morais RN, Mucciolo RG, Gomes MLF, Lacerda O, Moraes W, Moreira N, Swanson WF, Brown JL (1997) Adrenal activity assessed by fecal corticoids and male reproductive traits in three South American felid species. Proc Am Ass Zoo Vet 220–223

  • Oglesbee BL, Orosz S, Dorrestein G (1997) The endocrine system. In: Altman RB, Clubb SL, Dorrestein GM, Quesenberry K (eds) Avian medicine and surgery. W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia, pp 475–488

    Google Scholar 

  • Rupley AE (1997) Manual of avian practice. 1st edn. Saunders, Philadelphia, 556 p

    Google Scholar 

  • Scheiber IB, Krajl S, Kotrschal K (2005) Sampling effort/frequency necessary to infer individual acute stress responses from fecal analysis in greylag geese (Anser anser). Ann N Y Acad Sci 1046:154–167

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Scherer-Neto P (1989) Coontribuição à biologia do papagaio-de-cara-roxa (Amazona brasiliensis) [Contribution to the study of the biology of the Red-tailed parrot (Amazona brasiliensis)]. Research Thesis for M. Sc. degree, Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba-PR, 170 p

  • Schwarzenberger F, Möstl E, Bamberg E, Pammer J, Schmehlik O (1991) Concentration of progestagens and oestrogens in the faeces of pregnant Lipizzan, Trotter and Troughbred mares. J Reprod Fert Suppl 44:489–499

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Silverin B (1997) The stress response and autumn dispersal behaviour in willow tits. Anim Behav 53:451–459

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sipinski EAB (2003) O papagaio-de-cara-roxa (Amazona brasiliensis) na Ilha Rasa,Pr—Aspectos ecológicos e reprodutivos e relação com o ambiente. [The Red-tailed parrot (Amazon brasiliensis) at the Ilha Rasa, Paraná- Ecological and reproductive aspects and its relationship with the environment]. Research Thesis for M. Sc. degree, Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil, pp 74

  • Touma C, Palme R (2005) Measuring fecal glucocorticoid metabolites in mammals and birds: the importance of validation. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1046:54–68

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • von Holst D (1998) The concept of stress and its relevance for animal behavior. In: Moller AP (ed) Advances in the study of behavior, vol. 27. Academic Press, New York, pp 1–131

    Google Scholar 

  • Wasser SK, Bevis K, King G, Hanson E (1997) Noninvasive physiological measures of disturbance in the northern spotted owl. Conserv Biol 11:1019–1022

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wasser SK, Hunt KE, Brown JL, Cooper K, Crockett CM, Ugh JJ, Larbechert U, Millspason S, Monfort S (2000) A genereralized fecal glucocorticoid assay for use in a diverse array of nondomestic mammalian and avian species. Gen Comp Endocrinol 120:260–275

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wright TF, Toft CA, Enkerlin-Hoeflich E, Gonzalez-Elizondo J, Albornoz M, Rodrigues-Ferraro A, Rojas-Suarez F, Sanz V, Trujillo A, Beissinger S, Berovides V, Gálvez XA, Brice AT, Joyner K, Eberhard J, Martuscelli P, Gilardi J, Koening SE, Stoleson S, Meyers M, Renton K, Rodriguez AA, Sosa-Asanza A, Vilella FJ, Wiley JW (2001) Nest poaching in neotropical parrots. Conserv Biol 15:710–720

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the staff at the Curitiba Zoo for all their helpful assistance, and Pedro Scherer Neto and Elenise A. B. Sipinski, who shared their knowledge of the species and provided constructive criticisms of the manuscript. This research was funded by Fundação Araucária, Federal University of Paraná and Society for Wildlife Research and Environmental Education (SPVS). Experimental procedures were in compliance with Brazilian laws.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rosana N. Morais.

Additional information

Communicated by G. Heldmaier.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Popp, L.G., Serafini, P.P., Reghelin, A.L.S. et al. Annual pattern of fecal corticoid excretion in captive Red-tailed parrots (Amazona brasiliensis). J Comp Physiol B 178, 487–493 (2008).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: