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Long-term variation in blood glucose concentration in nestling Great Tits (Parus major)

Posted on 6. November, 2015.

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In recent decades, alterations in the environment have been rapid, and the pressure exerted on many wild populations has been continuously increasing. Many changes are related to urbanisation and of suburban and near-urban areas. These habitat alterations may exert environmental stresses on birds. Therefore, the different measures of physiological stress responses of vertebrates are of special interest to researchers.

The main aim of this study was to examine if blood glucose concentration displays any pattern of variation between years and distinct habitats. Bird blood glucose concentration reflects their high metabolic demands and is influenced by a variety of environmental factors. Therefore variation in glucose levels of free-living birds is an important aspect of their functional ecology. The authors now present results concerning variation in glucose concentration in the blood of Great Tit (Parus major) nestlings (~14-day-old). Also compared are the obtained results with variation in blood glucose nestlings Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) published elsewhere. This study was conducted in central Poland in an 8-year period, 2005–12 in two distinct habitat types: an urban parkland and a rural deciduous forest. The most important findings of the study were:


  • mean levels of blood glucose varied markedly between years;

  • glucose concentrations were significantly higher in the parkland study area;

  • heavier nestlings were characterised with lower blood glucose levels;

  • there was a negative relationship between fledging success and per-brood mean glucose concentration in the urban park site but not in the forest site; and

  • Great Tit nestlings were characterised by significantly higher blood glucose levels than Blue Tits nestlings. Variation in glucose concentration of nestling Great Tits shows a consistent spatio-temporal pattern which is generally similar to that found in Blue Tits.



Keywords: Parus major, blood glucose, spatial and temporal variation, wild population, environmental stress

Authors: Adam Kalińskia*, Mirosława Bańburab, Michał Glądalskic, Marcin Markowskic, Joanna Skwarskac, Jarosław Wawrzyniakc, Piotr Zielińskid, Iwona Cyżewskac and Jerzy Bańburac
aDepartment of Teacher Training and Biological Diversity Studies, Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection, University of Łódź, Banacha 1/3, 90‑237 Łodź, Poland
bMuseum of Natural History, Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection, University of Łódź, Kilińskiego 101, 90‑011 Łódź, Poland
cDepartment of Experimental Zoology and Evolutionary Biology and d Department of Ecology and Vertebrate Zoology, Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection, University of Łódź, Banacha 12/16, 90‑237 Łódź, Poland

Read the full article in Avian Biology Research, Volume 8, Number 3, September 2015, pp. 129-137.

DOI:10.3184/175815515X14294426911072

Image: Copyright: Irina Falkanfal