Fecal glucocorticoid assays provide a potentially useful, noninvasive means to study physiological responses of wildlife to various stressors. The objective of our study was to validate a method for measuring glucocorticoid metabolites in Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) feces. We validated the assay using standard procedures (e.g., parallelism, recovery of exogenous corticosterone) to demonstrate that the assay accurately and precisely measured glucocorticoid metabolites in Mourning Dove fecal extracts. We conducted adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) challenge experiments to validate the assay's ability to determine biologically important changes in fecal glucocorticoids. Fecal glucocorticoid levels increased significantly approximately 2-3 hr after administration of ACTH at 50 IU per kg body mass to wild Mourning Doves held in captivity. In contrast, fecal glucocorticoid metabolites did not increase in control birds, birds that received saline injections, or a lower dose of ACTH (1 IU per kg body mass). Variation in overall fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels may have been influenced by season and the length of time birds were held in captivity. Non-invasive fecal glucocorticoid metabolite analyses, in combination with demographic information, may have considerable utility for monitoring the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbances on Mourning Dove populations.
Additional publication details
Using fecal glucocorticoids for stress assessment in Mourning Doves