Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 156, Issue 1, pp 317–321 | Cite as

Increased hormonal stress reactions induced in an Alpine Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix) population by winter sports

  • Nicoletta FormentiEmail author
  • Roberto Viganó
  • Radames Bionda
  • Nicola Ferrari
  • Tiziana Trogu
  • Paolo Lanfranchi
  • Rupert Palme
Short Note


In the Italian Alps the intensification of winter sports represents an increasing threat for Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix). During the winters 2010/2011 and 2011/2012, characterised by different amounts of snowfall, 58 droppings from as many snow burrows were collected in three areas with different human disturbance to evaluate its effects on Black Grouse stress responses. Subjects in highly disturbed area showed higher concentrations of corticosterone metabolites during the winter with high snow cover highlighting a relationship between animals' stress and regular winter sports. As human-induced stress may contribute to population decline, tourism management should be planned to support Grouse conservation.


Endangered species Alpine Galliformes Conservation threat Winter sports Faecal corticosterone metabolites Free-ranging populations 


Durch Wintersport ausgelöste, hormonale Stressreaktionen bei einer alpinen Population von Birkhühnern (Tetrao tetrix)

In den italienischen Alpen stellen zunehmende Wintersportaktivitäten eine wachsende Bedrohung der Birkhühner (Tetrao tetrix) dar. In den Wintern 2010/2011 und 2011/2012, charakterisiert durch verschiedene Mengen an Schnee, wurden 58 Kotproben von ebenso vielen Schneehöhlen in drei durch Skitouristen unterschiedlich frequentierten Gebieten gesammelt. In den Kotproben wurden Stresshormonmetaboliten gemessen um den Einfluss der Störung durch den Menschen auf die Birkhühner zu erheben. Vögel im stark gestörten Gebiet wiesen höhere Konzentrationen an Kortikosteronmetaboliten im Winter mit hoher Schneelage auf. Dies legt einen Zusammenhang zwischen Stressreaktionen und regulärem Wintersport nahe. Da zusätzliche Belastungen zum Populationsrückgang beitragen können, sollten beim Tourismusmanagement Aspekte zum Schutz des Birkhuhnes berücksichtigt werden.



This work was supported by “ALCOTRA: Italy–France Alpine Grouse” Interreg Project. We wish to thank Dr. Marco Rughetti for helpfulness in field activities and Ilaria Marangi for improving the drafting of this manuscript. I, the undersigned, Nicoletta Formenti, declare that all the experiments used in the manuscript comply with the current Italian laws.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicoletta Formenti
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roberto Viganó
    • 1
  • Radames Bionda
    • 2
  • Nicola Ferrari
    • 1
  • Tiziana Trogu
    • 1
  • Paolo Lanfranchi
    • 1
  • Rupert Palme
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Veterinary Sciences and Public HealthUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Ente di gestione delle Aree protette dell’OssolaVarzo (VB)Italy
  3. 3.Department of Biomedical Sciences/BiochemistryUniversity of Veterinary MedicineViennaAustria

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