Friday, November 02, 2007

“Nervous” Birds Take More Risks

There was a recent study about birds’ emotions. Just like human, Zebra finch in response to stress created by the appearance of a predator, a change in their environment, or hormones. In this article, the scientists designed an experiment to test the birds with three different hormonal levels and put them in the same environment to see their reactions. They found that “stressed” ones took more risks in a new environment than the group that was usually more laid-back.

In this experiment, a research team studied zebra finches which had been selectively bred to produce three distinct types—“laid-back”, “normal” and “stressed”. There was hormone called “corticosterone” in birds that controlled the stress level of the birds. In the experiment, the researchers first put the “stressed” birds in a house with several unfamiliar objects to see their reaction toward this new environment. Dr. Thais Martins of the University of Exeter said “It initially seems counter-intuitive that birds with higher levels of the stress hormone showed bolder behavior, normally associated with confidence. However, corticosterone is released to help tackle stress by encouraging the animal to adopt key survival behaviors, like seeking food. So in reflection, perhaps it is not surprising that these birds are more likely to explore the environment and look for food.”

From this study, researchers and scientists now pay more attention to emotion of birds. Based on the corticosterone production levels in the birds, we can tell the behavior difference in them. From now on, by changing the corticosterone level in birds, we can help them survive better and prevent extinction.

Source: University of Exeter. "'Nervous' Birds Take More Risks." ScienceDaily 28 October 2007. 2 November 2007 /releases/2007/10/071025195515.htm>.

Posted by Xuni Li (6)


At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So birds are either born with a "stressed" or "laid-back" type of demeanor? Do you know if this changes due to environmental factors or is it purely hereditary trait? Also due corticosterone levels in "stressed" birds constantly stay higher than normal or do levels rise only in times of need to help the bird adapt?

-Henry Rafferty

At 11:29 AM, Blogger PWH said...

This is an interesting finding, but I don't really see it as a practical or very efficient way of preventing bird extinctions. How would changing the hormone levels of mass amounts of birds work? There are a number of factors contributing to bird declines and extinctions that have nothing to do with this. One major one is habitat loss.

Posted by: Gina Sciartilli (6)


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