Snow roosting reduces temperature-associated stress in a wintering bird

Amy A. Shipley, Michael John Sheriff, Jonathan N. Pauli, Benjamin Zuckerberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Animals in temperate northern regions employ a variety of strategies to cope with the energetic demands of winter. Behavioral plasticity may be important, as winter weather conditions are increasingly variable as a result of modern climate change. If behavioral strategies for thermoregulation are no longer effective in a changing environment, animals may experience physiological stress, which can have fitness consequences. We monitored winter roosting behavior of radio–tagged ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), recorded snow depth and temperature, and assayed droppings for fecal corticosterone metabolites (FCM). Grouse FCM levels increased with declining temperatures. FCM levels were high when snow was shallow, but decreased rapidly as snow depth increased beyond 20 cm. When grouse used snow burrows, there was no effect of temperature on FCM levels. Snow burrowing is an important strategy that appears to allow grouse to mediate the possibly stressful effects of cold temperatures. This is one of the first studies to explore how variable winter weather conditions influence stress in a free–living cold–adapted vertebrate and its ability to mediate this relationship behaviorally. Animals that depend on the snowpack as a winter refuge will likely experience increased stress and possible fitness costs resulting from the loss of snow cover due to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOecologia
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

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roosting
snow
corticosterone
grouse
bird
metabolite
winter
birds
metabolites
snowpack
temperature
animal
fitness
weather
climate change
animals
thermoregulation
burrowing
burrow
burrows

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Shipley, Amy A. ; Sheriff, Michael John ; Pauli, Jonathan N. ; Zuckerberg, Benjamin. / Snow roosting reduces temperature-associated stress in a wintering bird. In: Oecologia. 2019.
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Snow roosting reduces temperature-associated stress in a wintering bird. / Shipley, Amy A.; Sheriff, Michael John; Pauli, Jonathan N.; Zuckerberg, Benjamin.

In: Oecologia, 01.01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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