Non-invasive monitoring of physiological stress in an afrotropical arid-zone passerine bird, the southern pied babbler

Emma M. Jepsen, André Ganswindt, Celiwe A. Ngcamphalala, Amanda R. Bourne, Amanda R. Ridley, Andrew E. McKechnie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Web of Science)


Using faecal matter to monitor stress levels in animals non-invasively is a powerful technique for elucidating the effects of biotic and abiotic stressors on free-living animals. To validate the use of droppings for measuring stress in southern pied babblers (Turdoides bicolor) we performed an ACTH challenge on captive individuals and determined the effect of temporary separation from their social group on their faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) concentration. Additionally, we compared fGCM concentrations of captive babblers to those of wild conspecifics and examined the effects of dominance rank on fGCM concentration. We found droppings to be a suitable matrix for measuring physiological stress in babblers and that individual separation from the group caused an increase in fGCM levels. In addition, babblers temporarily held in captivity had substantially higher fGCM concentrations than wild individuals, indicating that babblers kept in captivity experience high levels of stress. In wild, free-living individuals, dominant males showed the highest levels of stress, suggesting that being the dominant male of a highly territorial social group is stressful. Non-invasive sampling allows field-based researchers to reduce disturbance related to monitoring adrenocortical function, thereby avoiding artificially increasing circulating corticosterone concentration as it is not necessary to physically restrain study animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-68
Number of pages9
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2019


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