Bird banding stations are used throughout North America to trap and band birds, which allow researchers and government agencies to monitor populations, migration routes, health and a variety of other elements of avian physiology and biology. Birds are commonly trapped in mistnets, placed into a cotton bag, and brought to a research station where they are banded, weighed, measured and released. On some days, the number of birds caught may be so high that birds are left to hang in the bags for 10 – 20 minutes while other birds are processed. During this time in the bag the birds are undergoing a stress response, with their stress hormone levels (corticosterone; CORT) steadily increasing as a result. Given all of the negative effects of chronic stress, such as suppressing reproduction, nest desertion and inhibiting growth, banding labs should endeavor to decrease the stress of captive birds whenever they can. One way that CORT levels may be altered is by manipulating the microenvironment of the cotton bag. To that end, we monitored the stress response of White-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) held for thirty minutes in either clean unused cotton bags or in comparable bags that had previously held at least 8 various passerines. For a variety of metrics used to assess CORT, there were no significant differences between the two groups; though both groups increased their CORT over time. Thus, from a stress perspective, a banding lab need not be concerned with whether or not a holding bag is feces free or has been excessively used. The possibility of transmitting disease such as Salmonella via feces, however, should not be ignored.
Daniel, Nidun and Cunningham, Gregory B., "Stress hormone in White-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) is not influenced by the cleanliness of a cotton bag" (2012). Biology Faculty/Staff Publications. Paper 14.
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