Project Overview

Oxidative stress in resident birds

Faculty Sponsor

Ana Jimenez (




There is ample evidence that the earth is warming, likely as a result of anthropomorphic activity. Because of this, we have the critical task to identify the characteristics of species that make them either resilient or susceptible to increases in their natural thermal regime. Birds are important bio-indicators of detrimental effects of global climate change. Temperatures not only affect the metabolic rate of birds, but also exert other indirect and direct effects on their behavioral patterns. These effects include earlier breeding, changes in timing of migration, reduction in egg size, lowered breeding success, alterations in population sizes, and changes in population distributions. The implications of climate change for birds have only recently begun to be addressed and there is already compelling evidence some of these animals have been affected by recent climate change.

Passerines respond to high temperature by substantially increasing their body temperature (Tb) in an attempt to save water initially. However, most year-round passerines are able to inhabit areas with drastic thermal fluctuations with their ability to be physiologically plastic when faced with increases in temperature. We will collect individuals from 5 different avian species: Sturnus vulgaris (European starling), Passer domesticus (House Sparrows), Poecile atricapillus (black- capped chickadee), Junco hyemalis (dark eyed juncos), Columba livia (Rock pigeon). The species included in this experiment have been chosen because they abundantly available year-round in central New York, and because they vary in body sizes from 10 g to 300 g, allowing this study to further incorporate body mass scaling as a component. Birds will be collected in the field using mist-nets, placed in cages and transported back to Colgate University. Birds will be acclimated to a “control” (ambient temperature) and “heat shocked” (33 °C - well below all species critical thermal minima) temperatures, acutely (9 hrs) and chronically (33 °C for 6 hrs daily for a total of 5 days). We will explore differences in various paramaters of oxidative stress between species and treatment groups. 

Student Qualifications

knowledge of animal care, willingness to work in the field, basic laboratory skills

Number of Student Researchers

4 students

Project Length

8 weeks

Applications open on 01/05/2018 and close on 02/05/2018

<< Back to List

If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (